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Aged 27. 
tin- engraving in the "Naval Chronicle," 1814, after a minia- 
ture in the possession of Mrs. Flinders. 







With portraits , maps, and facsimiles 




Printed by W. C. Penfold & Co. I v td., 183 Pitt Street, Sydney 


Angus & Robertson I/td. 

London : The Oxford University Press 
Amen Corner, E.C. 




The subject of this book died one hundred years ago. 
Within his forty years of life, he discovered a very 
large area of what is now an important region of the 
earth; he participated in stirring events which are 
memorable in modern history; he applied a vigorous 
and original mind to the advancement of knowledge, 
with useful results; and he was the victim of circum- 
stances which, however stated, were peculiarly un- 
fortunate, and must evoke the sympathy of everyone 
who takes the trouble to understand them. His career 
was crowded with adventures: war, perilous voyages, 
explorations of unknown coasts, encounters with savages, 
shipwreck and imprisonment are the elements which go 
to make up his story. He was, withal, a downright 
Englishman of exceptionally high character, proud of 
his service and unsparing of himself in the pursuit of 
his duty. 

Yet up to this time his biography has not been 
written. There are, it is true, outlines of his career 
in various works of reference, notably that contributed 
by Sir J. K. Laughton to the Dictionary of National 
Biography. But there is no book to which a reader can 
turn for a fairly full account of his achievements, and 
an estimate of his personality. Of all discoverers of 
leading rank Matthew Flinders is the only one about 
whom there is no ample and convenient record. 

This book endeavours to fill the gap. 

The material upon which it is founded is set forth 
in the footnotes and the bibliography. Here the author 


takes pleasure in acknowledging the assistance he has 
received from several quarters. A previous book 
brought him the acquaintance of the grand-nephew of 
that Comte de Fleurieu who largely inspired three 
famous French voyages to Australia — those of 
Laperouse, Dentrecasteaux and Baudin — all of which 
have an important bearing upon the subject. The 
Comte A. de Fleurieu had long been engaged in collect- 
ing material relative to the work and influence of his 
distinguished grand-uncle, and in the most generous 
manner he handed over to the author his very large 
collection of manuscripts and note-books to be read, 
noted, and used at discretion. Even when a historian 
does not actually quote or directly use matter bearing 
upon his subject, it is of immense advantage to have 
access to documents which throw light upon it, and 
which enable an in-and-out knowledge of a period and 
persons to be obtained. This book owes much of 
whatever value it may possess to Monsieur de Fleurieu's 
assistance in this respect, and the author thanks him 
most warmly. 

The Flinders papers, of which free use has been 
made, were presented to the Melbourne Public Library 
by Professor W. M. Flinders Petrie. They are des- 
cribed in the bibliography. The transcripts of family 
and personal documents were especially valuable. 
Although they were not supplied for this book, Pro- 
fessor Flinders Petrie gave them in order that they 
might be of use to some biographer of his grandfather, 
and the author begs to thank him, and also Mr. E. La 
Touche Armstrong, the chief librarian, in whose cus- 
tody they are, and who has given frequent access to 

The rich stores of manuscripts in the Mitchell 
Library, Sydney, have been thoroughly examined, with 


the assistance of Mr. W. H. Ifould, principal librarian, 
Mr. Hugh Wright, and the staff of that institution. 
Help from this quarter was accorded with such grace 
that one came to think giving trouble was almost like 
conferring a favour. 

All copies of documents from Paris and Caen cited 
in this book have been made by Madame Robert 
Helouis. The author was able to indicate the where- 
abouts of the principal papers, but Madame Helouis, 
developing an interest in the subject as she pursued her 
task, was enabled, owing to her extensive knowledge 
of the resources of the French archives, to find and 
transcribe many new and valuable papers. The author 
also wishes to thank Captain Francis Bayldon, of Syd- 
ney, who has kindly given help on several technical 
points; Miss Alma Hansen, University of Melbourne, 
who was generous enough to make a study of the Dutch 
Generate Beschrijvinge van Indlen — no light task — to 
verify a point of some importance for the purpose of 
the chapter on "The Naming of Australia"; and Mr. 
E. A. Petherick, whose manuscript bibliography, con- 
taining an immense quantity of material, the fruit of a 
long life's labour, has always been cheerfully made 

Professor Flinders Petrie has been kind enough to 
read and make some useful suggestions upon the 
personal and family passages of the book, which has 
consequently benefited greatly. 

The whole work has been read through by Mr. A. 
W. Jose, author of The History of Australasia, whose 
criticism on a multitude of points, some minute, but all 
important, has been of the utmost value. The help 
given by Mr. Jose has been more than friendly; it has 
been informed by a keen enthusiasm for the subject, and 


great knowledge of the original authorities. The 
author's obligations to him are gratefully acknowledged. 

It is hoped that these pages will enable the reader 
to know Matthew Flinders the man, as well as the 
navigator; for the study of the manuscript and printed 
material about him has convinced the author that 
he was not only remarkable for what he did and en- 
dured, but for his own sake as an Englishman of the 
very best type. 

Melbourne, June 1914. 


Chapter I. 


Place of Flinders among Australian navigators — Birth — 
Flemish origins — Pedigree — Connection with the Tenny- 
sons — Possible relationship with Bass — Flinders' father — 
Donington • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 1 

Chapter II. 


Education — Robinson Crusoe — Aspirations for a naval career 
— His father's wish — John Flinders' advice — Study of 
navigation — Introduction to Pasley — Lieutenant's servant — 
Midshipman on the Bellerophon — Bligh and the Bounty 
mutiny . . . . . . . . • • • • • • • • 11 

Chapter III. 


The second breadfruit expedition — Flinders in the Provi- 
dence — Notes from Santa Cruz — At the Cape — Tahiti — 
In Torres Strait — Encounter with Papuans — Return to 
England 29 

Chapter IV. 


The naval war with France — The battle of June 1st, 1794 — 
Flinders as gunner — Pasley wounded — Flinders' journal of 
the engagement — Effect of Pasley's wound on the career of 
Flinders 41 

Chapter V. 


The predecessors of Flinders — How Australia grew on the 
map — Mediaeval controversies on antipodes — Period of 
vague speculation — Sixteenth century maps — The Dutch 
voyagers — The Batavia on the Abrolhos Reef — The 
Duyfhen in the Gulf — Torres — The three periods of 
Australian maritime discovery — Geographers and their 
views of Australia — The theory of the dividing strait — 
Cook and Furneaux — The untraced southern coast . . 64 


Chapter VI. 


Governor Hunter — Captain Waterhouse — Flinders' passion for 
exploring new countries — Joins the Reliance — Hunter on 
the strategic importance of the Cape — Sailing of 
Reliance and Supply for New South Wales — Flinders' 
observations — Arrival at Port Jackson — George Bass — 
The Tom Thumb — Exploration of George's River — A 
perilous cruise — Meeting with aboriginals — The midship- 
man as valet — Port Hacking — Patching up the Reliance — 
Voyage to South Africa . . . . . . . . • . 77 

Chapter VII. 


Bass in the Blue Mountains — Supposed strait isolating Van 
Diemen's Land — Bass's whaleboat voyage — Wilson's 
Promontory — Escaped convicts — Discovery of Western- 
port — Return to Port Jackson 97 

Chapter VIII. 


The wreck of the Sydney Cove — Discovery of Kent's Islands — 
Biological notes — Seals — Sooty petrels — The wombat — 
Point Hicks 123 

Chapter IX. 


Flinders in command of the Norfolk — Bass's association with 
him — Twofold Bay — Discovery of Port Dalrymple — Bass 
Strait demonstrated — Black swans — Albatross Island — 
Tasmanian aboriginals 133 

Chapter X. 


Bass's marriage — Part owner of the Venus — Voyages after 
pork — A fishing concession — South American enterprise — 
Unsaleable goods — A "diplomatic-looking certificate" — 
Bass's last voyage — Probable fate in Peru — His missing 
letters . . 145 

Chapter XL 


Flinders and the Isaac Nicholls case — Exploration on the 

Queensland coast — Moreton Bay 157 


Chapter XII. 

Return to England in the Reliance — Sir Joseph Banks — 
Marriage of Flinders — Ann Chappell and Chappell 
Island — The Franklins — Publication of Observations on 
the Coasts of Van Diemen's Land, on Bass Strait and its 
Islands — Anxiety about French expedition — The Investi- 
gator commissioned — Equipment of ship — The staff and 
crew — East India Company's interest — Instructions for the 
voyage — The case of Mrs. Flinders — Sailing orders delayed 
—the incident at the Roar — Life on board — Crossing the 
Line — Australia reached • • • • • • • • • • 163 

Chapter XIII. 


Origin of Baudin's expedition — His instructions — Baudin's 

dilatoriness — In Tasmanian waters — Waterhouse Island • . 198 

Chapter XIV. 


The south coast of Australia — Method of research — 
Aboriginals at King George's Sound — Discovery of 
Spencer's Gulf — Loss of Thistle and a boat's crew — 
Memory Cove — Port Lincoln — Kangaroo Island — St. 
Vincent's Gulf — Pelicans — Speculations on the fate of 
Laperouse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205 

Chapter XV. 


The sighting of Le Geographe — Flinders visits Baudin — Their 
conversations — Flinders invites Baudin to visit Port 
Jackson 224 

Chapter XVI. 


Grant's discoveries — Murray discovers Port Phillip — King 
Island — Flinders enters Port Phillip — Ascends Arthur's 
Seat — The Investigator aground — Cruise in a boat — 
Ascends Station Peak — Flinders' impression of the port — 
Arrival in Port Jackson — Healthiness of his crew • • 233 


Chapter XVII. 


Arrival of Le Geographe at Port Jackson — State of the crew — 
Hospitality of Governor King — Rumours as to French 
designs — Baudin's gratitude — Peron's report on Port Jack- 
son — His espionage — Freycinet's plan of invasion — 
Scientific work of the expedition . . . • • • . . 246 

Chapter XVIII. 


Overhaul of the ship — The Lady Nelson — Flinders sails north 
— Discovery of Port Curtis and Port Bowen — Through 
the Barrier Reef — Torres Strait — Remarks on Coral Reefs 
— The Gulf of Carpentaria — Rotten condition of the ship- 
Melville Bay discovered — Sails for Timor — Australia 
circumnavigated — The Investigator condemned — Illness of 
Flinders — News of father's death — Letter to step-mother — 
Letters to Mrs. Flinders — Letter to Bass — The end of the 
Investigator • ■ • • • . • • • • • • . . 265 

Chapter XIX. 


New plans — Flinders sails in the Porpoise — Remarks on Syd- 
ney — Wrecked — Conduct of the Bridgewatcr — Plans for 
relief — Stores available — Voyage in the Hope to Sydney — 
Franklin's description of the wreck . . . . . . . . 285 

Chapter XX. 


King receives news of the wreck — The Cumberland — Wreck 
Reef reached — Voyage to Timor — Determination to sail to 
Ile-de-France — Flinders' reasons — Arrival at Baye du Cap 
—Arrival at Port Louis 298 

Chapter XXI. 


Decaen's early career — His baptism of fire — War in the Vendee 
— The Army of the Rhine — Moreau — Battle of Hohen- 
linden — Moreau and Napoleon — The peace of Amiens — 
Decaen's arrival at Pondicherry — His reception — Leaves 
for Ile-de-France — His character and abilities . . . . 308 


Chapter XXII. 


Flinders' reception by Decaen — His anger — Imprisoned at the 
Cafe Marengo — His papers and books — His examination — 
Refusal of invitation to dinner — Decaen's anger — His 
determination to detain Flinders — King's despatches — 
Decaen's statement of motives — Flinders asks to be sent 
to France • • • • • • • • • • • • . . . . 321 

Chapter XXIII. 


Decaen's despatch — A delayed reply — Flinders' occupations — 
His health — The sword incident — Anniversary of the im- 
prisonment — Aken's liberation — The faithful Elder . . 346 

Chapter XXIV. 


Thomas Pitot — Removal to Wilhelm's Plains — The parole — 
Madame D'Ari fat's house — Hospitalities — Flinders studies 
French and Malay — Further exploration schemes — The 
residence of Laperouse — Work upon the charts — King's 
protest and Decaen's anger — Elder's departure • • • . 357 

Chapter XXV. 


Influences to secure release — The order of release — Receipt of 
the despatch — Decaen's reply — Flinders a dangerous man — 
Reason for Decaen's refusal — State of Ile-de-France — 
Project for escape — Flinders' reasons for declining . . 367 

Chapter XXVI. 


Blockade of Ile-de-France — Decaen at the end of his tether — 
Release of Flinders — Return to England — The plagiarism 
charge — Flinders' papers — Work of Peron and Freycinet 379 

Chapter XXVII. 


Flinders in London — Prolonged and severe work — His illness 
— Death of Flinders — His last words — Treatment of his 
widow by the Admiralty . . . . . . . . . . 391 


Chapter XXVIII. 


Personality — Portraits — Flinders' commanding look — Geniality 
— Conversational powers — Gentleness — Kindness to 
wounded French officer — Advice to young officers — An 
eager student — The husband • • • • .... . . 402 

Chapter XXIX. 


Technical writings — The marine barometer — Variations in the 

compass — Praise of other navigators — Love for his work 414 

Chapter XXX. 


The name Australia given to the continent by Flinders — The 
"Austrialia del Espiritu Santo" of Quiros — De Brosses 
and "Australasia" — Dalrymple and "Australia" — Flinders' 
use of the word in 1804 — His use of it in a French essay 
in 1810 — Persistent employment of the word in letters — 
Proposes the word "Australia" to Banks — His fight for 
his word — "Terra Australis" — The footnote of 1814 . . 420 



SON 436 




INDEX 481 


Portrait of Matthew Flinders, aged 27 Frontispiece 

Flinders' Birthplace, Donington, Lincolnshire xviii 

Facsimile of Letter to Sir Joseph Banks, 1794 . . 48 

Tablet on Memorial erected by Sir John 

Franklin at Port Lincoln, S.A. . . . . 64 

Memorial on Mount Lofty, South Australia . . 81 

Map of Flinders' Voyages in Bass Strait . . . . 102 

Bass's Eye-sketch of Westernport . . . . . . 114 

Portrait of George Bass . . . . . . 122 

Page from Flinders' MS. Narrative of the 

Voyage of the Francis, 1798 . . . . . . 128 

Memorial on the Summit of Station Peak, 

Port Phillip . , . . . . . . . . 135 

Port Dalrymple, discovered in the Norfolk, 1798 136 

Page from Bass's MS. Account of the Voyage of 

the Norfolk . . . . . . . . . . 148 

Cairn erected on Flinders' Landing-place, 

Kangaroo Island, S.A 164 

Portrait of Earl Spencer . . . . . . . . 181 

Tablet at Memory Cove, South Australia . . 196 

View on Kangaroo Island, by Westall . . . . 213 

Flinders' Chart of Spencer's Gulf, St. Vincent's 

Gulf, and Encounter Bay . . . . . . 218 

Tablet at Encounter Bay, South Australia, 
commemorating the Meeting of Flinders 

and Baudin . . . . . . . . . . 224 

View of the Western Arm of Port Phillip, by 

Westall 240 



Flinders' Map of Port Phillip and Western- 
port . . . . . . . . . . . . 240 

View of Sydney Harbour, from Vaucluse, by 

Westall 257 

Flinders' Chart of Torres Strait, also showing 

Cook's and Bligh's Tracks . . . . . . 270 

Flinders' Map of the Gulf of Carpentaria . . 272 

Flinders' Map of Australia, showing his 

Principal Voyages . . . . . . . . 272 

View on the Hawkesbury River, by Westall . . 278 

Wreck Reef Island, by Westall . . . . . . 295 

Flinders' Map of Wreck Reef . . . . . . 300 

Portrait of General Decaen . . . . . . 308 

View of Port Louis . . . . . . . . . . 325 

Map of Ile-de-France . . . . . . . . . . 354 

Page from Flinders' Copy of his Memorial to the 

French Minister of Marine . . . . . . 360 

Portrait of Flinders in 1808 . . . . . . 366 

Silhouette of Flinders, made after his Return 

from Ile-de-France . . . . . . . . 383 

Facsimile of Original MS. Dedication of 

Flinders' Journal . . . . . . . . 398 

Page from MS. of Flinders' Abridged Narrative 404 

Extract from Flinders' Letter-book . . . . 406 

Flinders' Memorial in Parish Church, Donington 409 

Memorial to Bass and Flinders at the Common- 
wealth Naval Base, Westernport . . . . 424 

The maps have been copied from Flinders' Atlas, with the 
omission of a few details, which, on the small scale necessarily- 
adopted, would have caused confusion ; it has been thought better 
to make what is given quite legible to the unassisted eye. All 
names on the maps are as Flinders spelt them, but in the body of 
the book modern spellings have been adopted. In the case of the 
Duyfhen (p. 70) the usual spelling, which is also that of Flinders, 
is retained ; but the late J. Backhouse Walker has shown reason to 
believe that the real name of the vessel was Duyfken. 


1774 (March 16) 

1789 (October 23) 

1790 (July 31) 
1791-3 .. .. 

1793 (September) 

1794 (June) 

1795 (February) 

1796 (March) 

1797 (December) 

1798 (January) 
1798 (January) 
1798 (January 31) 

1798 (October) 
1798 (November) 

1798 (December) 

1799 . . 

1799 (July) 

1800 (March) 
1800 (October) 

1800 (December) 

1 80 1 (January 17) 

1 80 1 (February 16) 

1801 (April) 

1801 (July 18) 

1 80 1 (December) 

1802 (February) 
1802 (March) 

Born, at Donington. 

Enters the Royal Navy. 

Midshipman on the Bellerophon. 

Voyage in the Providence. 

Rejoins the Bellerophon. 

Participates in the battle off 

Sails for Australia in the Re- 
liance. Meets George Bass. 

Cruise of the Tom Thumb. 

Bass's whaleboat voyage. 

Discovery of Westernport. 

Flinders' voyage in the Francis 

Flinders obtains lieutenant's 

Voyage of the Norfolk. 

Discovery of Port Dalrymple. 

Bass Strait demonstrated. 

Return to Port Jackson. 

Exploration on Queensland coast. 

Return to England in the Re- 

Arrival in England. 

Plan of Australian Exploration. 

The Investigator commissioned. 

Publication of Observations. 

Obtains commander's rank. 

Marriage of Flinders. 

Sailing of the Investigator. 

Australia reached. 

Discovery of Spencer's Gulf. 

Discovery of Kangaroo Island 
and St. Vincent's Gulf. 


1802 (April) 

1802 (May) 
1802 (July) 
1802 (August) 

1 802 ( November ) 

1803 (April) 

1803 (June) 

1803 (July 10) 
1803 (August 17) 

1803 (September 8) 

1803 (September 21) 

1803 (November) 

1803 (December 17) 

1804 (April) 

1805 . . 

1806 (March 21) 
rec'd. July 20, 1807 

1810 (June 13) 
1810 (October 24) 
1814 (July 19) .- 

Meeting of Flinders and Baudin 
in Encounter Bay. 

Flinders in Port Phillip. 

Voyage to Northern Australia. 

Discovery of Port Curtis and 
Port Bowen. 

In the Gulf of Carpentaria. 

Return voyage; Australia cir- 

Sydney reached ; the Investigator 

Sails in the Porpoise 

Wrecked on the Barrier Reef. 

Voyage in the Hope to Sydney. 

Arrival in Port Jackson. 

Sails in the Cumberland. 

Timor reached. 

Arrival at Ile-de-France ; made 
a prisoner. 

Removal to the Garden Prison 
(Maison Despeaux). 

Removal to Wilhelm's Plains. 

French Government orders re- 
lease of Flinders. 

Release of Flinders. 

Return to England. 

Death of Flinders. 

£ o 

w ^ 

O £ 

u ^ 

o * 

H ^ 
O S 

o ^ 

< -3J 

5 2 


I— I 


Chapter I. 

Matthew Flinders was the third of the triad of great 
English sailors by whom the principal part of Australia 
was revealed. A poet of our own time, in a line of 
singular felicity, has described it as the " last sea-thing 
dredged by sailor Time from Space;"* and the piece- 
meal, partly mysterious, largely accidental drag- 
ging from the depths of the unknown of a land 
so immense and bountiful makes a romantic chapter 
in geographical history. All the great seafaring 
peoples contributed something towards the result. 
The Dutch especially evinced their enterprise in 
the pursuit of precise information about the southern 
Terra Incognita, and the nineteenth century was 
well within its second quarter before the name New 
Holland, which for over a hundred years had borne 
testimony to their adventurous pioneering, gave place 
in general and geographical literature to the more con- 
venient and euphonious designation suggested by 
Flinders himself, Australia. t 

But, important as was the work of the Dutch, and 
though the contributions made by French navigators 
(possibly also by Spanish) are of much consequence, it 
remains true that the broad outlines of the continent 
were laid down by Dampier, Cook and Flinders. These 
are the principal names in the story. A map of Aus- 

* Bernard O'Dowd, Downward (1903). 

t Not universally, however, even in official documents. In the 
Report of the Committee of the Privy Council, dated May 1, 1849, 
"New Holland" is used to designate the continent, but "Australia" 
is employed as including both the continent and Tasmania. See 
Grey's Colonial Policy I., 424 and 439. 


tralia which left out the parts discovered by other 
sailors would be seriously defective in particular 
features; but a map which left out the parts discovered 
by these three Englishmen would gape out of all re- 
semblance to the reality. 

Dampier died about the year 1712; nobody knows 
precisely when. Matthew Flinders came into the 
world in time to hear, as he may well have done as a boy, 
of the murder of his illustrious predecessor in 1779. 
The news of Cook's fate did not reach England till 
1781. The lad was then seven years of age, having 
been born on March 16th, 1774. 

His father, also named Matthew, was a surgeon 
practising his profession at Donington, Lincolnshire, 
where the boy was born. The Flinders family had 
been settled in the same town for several generations. 
Three in succession had been surgeons. The patrony- 
mic indicates a Flemish origin, and the work on Eng- 
lish surnames* that bids the reader looking for informa- 
tion under " Flinders " to " see Flanders," sends him 
on a reasonable quest, if to no great resulting advantage. 

The English middle-eastern counties received fre- 
quent large migrations of Flemings during several 
centuries. Sometimes calamities due to the harshness 
of nature, sometimes persecutions and wars, sometimes 
adverse economic conditions, impelled companies of 
people from the Low Countries to cross the North Sea 
and try to make homes for themselves in a land which, 
despite intervals of distraction, offered greater security 
and a better reward than did the place whence t'.^ey 
came. England derived much advantage from the in- 
fusion of this industrious, solid and dependable Flemish 
stock; though the temporary difficulty of absorption 
gave rise to local protests on more than one occasion. 

* Barker, Family Surnames (1903), p. 143. 


As early as 1108, a great part of Flanders "being 
drowned by an exudation or breaking in of the sea, a 
great number of Flemings came into the country, 
beseeching the King to have some void place assigned 
them, wherein they might inhabit."* Again in the 
reign of Edward I. we find Flemish merchants carry- 
ing on a very large and important trade in Boston, and 
representatives of houses from Ypres and Ostend 
acquired property in the town.t In the middle of the 
sixteenth century, when Flanders was boiling on the 
fire of the Reformation, Lincolnshire and Norfolk 
provided an asylum for crowds of harassed refugees. 
In 1569 two persons were deputed to ride from Boston 
to Norwich to ascertain what means that city adopted 
to find employment for them ; and in the same year Mr. 
William Derby was directed to move Mr. Secretary 
Cecil, Queen Elizabeth's great minister, to "know his 
pleasure whether certain strangers may be allowed to 
dwell within the borough without damage of the 
Queen's laws.";): 

During one of these peaceful and useful Flemish 
invasions the ancestors of Matthew Flinders entered 
Lincolnshire. In the later years of his life he devoted 
some attention to the history of his family, and found 
record of a Flinders as early as the tenth century. He 
believed, also, that his people had some connection with 
two men named Flinders or Flanders, who fled from 
Holland during the religious persecutions, and settled, 
in Queen Elizabeth's reign, in Nottinghamshire as 
silk stocking weavers. It would be very interesting if 
it were clear that there was a link between the family 

*Holinshed's Chronicle (edition of 1807), II., 53. 

t Pishey Thompson, Collections for a Topographical and His- 
torical Account of Boston and the Hundred of Skirbeck (1820), 
p. 31. 

% Boston Corporation mss., quoted in Thompson, History and 
Antiquities of Boston (1856). 


and the origins of the great Nottingham hosiery trade. 
A Flinders may in that case have woven silk stockings 
for the Royal termagant, and Lord Coke's pair, which 
were darned so often that none of the original fabric 
remained, may have come from their loom. 

Matthew Flinders himself wrote the note : 
"Ruddington near Nottingham (it is four miles south 
of the town) is the place whence the Flinders came;" 
and he ascertained that an ancestor was Robert Flinders, 
a Nottingham stocking-weaver. 

A family tradition relates that the Lincolnshire 
Flinders were amongst the people taken over to 
England by Sir Cornelius Vermuyden, a Dutch 
engineer of celebrity in his day, who undertook 
in 1621 to drain 360,000 acres of fen in Norfolk, 
Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. He was financed 
by English and Dutch capitalists, and took his 
reward in large grants of land which he made fit 
for habitation and cultivation. Vermuyden and his 
Flemings were not allowed to accomplish their work of 
reclamation without incurring the enmity of the natives. 
In a petition to the King in 1637 he stated that he had 
spent £150,000, but that £60,000 of damage had been 
done " by reason of the opposition of the commoners," 
who cut the banks of his channels in the night and 
during floods. The peasantry, indeed, resisted the im- 
provements that have proved so beneficent to that part 
of England, because the draining and cultivation of so 
many square miles of swamp would deprive them of 
fishing and fowling privileges enjoyed from time im- 
memorial. Hardly any reform or improvement can 
be effected without some disruption of existing interests; 
and a people deeply sunk in poverty and toil could 
hardly be expected to contemplate with philosophical 
calm projects which, however advantageous to fortu- 


nate individuals and to posterity, were calculated to 
diminish their own means of living and their pleasant 
diversions. The dislike of the "commoners" to the work 
of the " participants " led to frequent riots, and many 
of Vermuyden's Flemings were maltreated. He en- 
deavoured to allay discontent by employing local labour 
at high wages ; and was courageous enough to pursue his 
task despite loss of money, wanton destruction, and 
many other discouragements.* Ebullitions of discon- 
tent on the part of fractious Fenlanders did not cease till 
the beginning of the eighteenth century. 

A very simple calculation shows that the great- 
grandfather of the first Matthew Flinders would 
probably have been contemporary with Sir Cornelius 
Vermuyden's reclamation works. He may have been 
one of the "participants" who benefited from them. 
The fact is significant as bearing upon this conjecture, 
that no person named Flinders made a will in Lincoln- 
shire before 1600.t 

It is, too, an interesting circumstance that there was 
a Flinders among the early settlers in New England, 
Richard Flinders of Salem, born 1637.1 He may 
have been of the same family as the navigator, for the 
Lincolnshire element among the fathers of New Eng- 
land was pronounced. 

The name Flinders survived at Donington certainly 
for thirty years after the death of the sailor who gave 
lustre to it; for in a directory published in 1842 occur 

* See Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, for 1619-23-25- 
38-39, et seq.; and White's Lincolnshire, p. 542. 

f See C. W. Foster, Calendar of Lincoln Wills, 1320-1600 (1902). 

J Savage, Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New 
England (Boston, U.S.A., 1860). 


the names of " Flinders, Mrs. Eliz., Market Place," 
and "Flinders, Mrs Mary, Church Street."* 

The Flinders papers, mentioned in the preface, con- 
tain material which enables the family and connections 
of the navigator to be traced with certainty for seven 
generations. The genealogy is shown by the follow- 
ing table: — 

John Flinders, b. 1682, d. 1741, settled at Donington as a 
farmer, m. 1702, Mary Obray or Aubrey 

John Flinders, surgeon at Spalding, born 1737, still living in 1810 

r i 

John Flinders, Lieutenant Matthew Flinders, surgeon 

in Roval Navy, b. 1766, at Donington, b. 1750, d. 

d. 1793' 1802, m. 1773, Susannah 

Ward, 1752-1783 

I I 

Matthew Flinders the Samuel Ward Flinders, 

Navigator, b. March 16, b. 1782, d. 1842, Lieut. 

1774, d. July 19, 1814, in Royal Navy, married 

m. 1801, Ann Chappell, and left several children 
b. 1770, d. 1852 

Ann Flinders, b. 1812, d. 1892, m. 1851, 
William Petrie, b. 1821, d. 1908 

Professor W. M. Flinders Petrie, 
eminent scholar and Egyptian archae- 
ologist, b. 1853, m. 1897, Hilda Urlin 

John Flinders Petrie 
Ann Flinders Petrie 

There is also an interesting connection between 
Flinders and the Tennysons, through the Franklin 
family. The present Lord Tennyson, when Governor 
of South Australia, in the course of his official duties, 
in March, 1902, unveiled a memorial to his kinsman 
on Mount Lofty, and in April of the same year a second 
one in Encounter Bay. The following table illustrates 

* William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of the City 
and Diocese of Lincoln (1842), p. 193. 


the relationship between him who wrote of "the long 
wash of Australasian seas " and him who knew them as 
discoverer : — 

Matthew Flinders (father of Matthew Flinders the navigator) 
married as his second wife Elizabeth Weekes, whose sister, 
Hannah Weekes, married Willingham Franklin of Spilsby 

I . I 

Sir John Franklin, b. 1786, Sarah Franklin, married 1812 

midshipman of the Investi- Henry Sellwood, solicitor, of 

gator, Arctic explorer, Lieut.- Horncastle 

Governor of Van Diemen's j 

Land (Tasmania) 1837-44, 
d. 1847 

Louisa Sellwood married 
Charles Tennyson-Turner, 
poet, brother of Alfred 

Emilv Sarah Sellwood, b. 1813, 

d. 1896, m. in 1850 Alfred 

Tennyson, Poet Laureate, b. 

1809, d. 1892 

Hallam, Lord Tennyson, b. 1852 ; 
Governor of South Australia 1899- 
1902 ; Governor-General of Aus- 
tralia, 1902^ 

The Flinders papers also contain a note suggesting 
a distant connection between Matthew Flinders and the 
man who above all others was his choice friend, George 
Bass, the companion of his earliest explorations. 
Positive proof is lacking, but Flinders' daughter, Mrs. 
Petrie, wrote "we have reason to think that Bass was 
a connection of the family," and the point is too 
interesting to be left unstated. The following table 
shows the possible kinship : — 

John Flinders of Donington, b. 1682, d. 1741 (great- 
grandfather of the navigator) 

Mary Flinders, third and youngest daughter, b. 1734, 
married as her third husband — Bass 

George Bass, who had three daughters, and is believed 

to have been an uncle or cousin of George Bass, Matthew 

Flinders' companion in exploration. 


It is clear from the particulars stated above that 
the tree of which Matthew Flinders was the fruit had 
its roots deep down in the soil of the little Lincolnshire 
market town where he was born; and Matthew him- 
self would have continued the family tradition, inherit- 
ing the practice built up by his father and grandfather 
(as it was hoped he would do), had there not been 
within him an irresistible longing for the sea, and a 
bent of scientific curiosity directed to maritime explora- 
tion, which led him on a path of discovery to achieve- 
ments that won him honourable rank in the noble roll 
of British naval pioneers. 

His father earned an excellent reputation, both pro- 
fessional and personal. The career of a country 
practitioner rarely affords an opportunity for distinc- 
tion. It was even less so then than to-day, when at all 
events careful records of interesting cases are printed in 
a score or more of professional publications. But once 
we find the elder Matthew Flinders in print. The 
Memoirs of the Medical Society of London* contain 
a paper read before that body on October 30th, 1797 : 
" Case of a child born with variolar pustules, by 
Matthew Flinders, surgeon, Donington, Lincolnshire." 
The essay occupies three pages, and is a clear, succinct 
record of symptoms, treatment and results, for medical 
readers. The child died; whereupon the surgeon ex- 
presses his regret, not on account of infant or parents, 
but, with true scientific zest, because it deprived him of 
the opportunity of watching the development of an un- 
common case. 

Donington is a small town in the heart of the fen 
country, lying ten miles south-west of Boston, and about 
the same distance, as the crow flies, from the black, 
muddy, western fringe of the Wash. It is a very old 

•Vol. IV., p. 330 (1779). 


town. Formerly it was an important Lincolnshire 
centre, enjoying its weekly Saturday market, and its 
four annual fairs for the sale of horses, cattle, flax and 
hemp. During Flinders' youth and early manhood 
the district grew large quantities of hemp, principally 
for the Royal Navy. In the days of its prosperity 
Donington drew to itself the business of an agricultural 
neighbourhood which was so far cultivable as it rose 
above the level of desolate and foggy swamps. But the 
drainage of the fens and the making of good roads over 
what had once been an area of amphibious uncertainty, 
neither Avholly land nor wholly water, had the effect 
of largely diverting business to Boston. Trade that 
came to Donington when it stood over its own tract of 
fen, like the elderly and respectable capital of some 
small island, now went to the thriving and historic port 
on the Witham. Donington stopped growing, stag- 
nated, declined. On the map of Lincolnshire included 
in Camden's Britannia (1637) it is marked "Duning- 
ton," in letters as large as those given to Boston, Spald- 
ing and Lincoln. On modern maps the name is printed 
in small letters; on some in the smallest, or not at all. 
That fact is fairly indicative of its change of for- 
tunes. Figures tell the tale with precision. In 1801 it 
contained 1,321 inhabitants; in 1821, 1,638; in 1841 it 
reached its maximum, 2,026; by 1891 it had gone down 
to 1,547; in 1901 to 1,484; at the census of 1911 it 
had struggled up to 1,564.* 

The fame conferred by a distinguished son is hardly 
a recompense for faded prosperity, but certain it is that 
Donington commands a wider interest as the birthplace 
of Flinders than it ever did in any other respect during 
its long, uneventful history. The parish church, a fine 
Gothic building with a lofty, graceful spire, contains a 

* Allen, History of Lincolnshire (1833), I., 342; Victoria History 
of Lincolnshire, II., 359; Census Returns for 1911. 


monument to the memory of the navigator, with an 
inscription in praise of his character and life, and re- 
cording that he "twice circumnavigated the globe." 
Many men have encircled the earth, but few have been 
so distinguished as discoverers of important portions 
of it. Apart from this monument, the church contains 
marble ovals to the memory of Matthew Flinders 1 
father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. They 
were provided from a sum of £100 left by the navigator, 
in his will, for the purpose. 

It is interesting to notice that three of the early 
Australian explorers came from Lincolnshire, and were 
all born at places visible in clear weather from the 
tower of St. Botolph's Church at Boston. While 
Flinders sprang from Donington, George Bass, who 
co-operated with him in his first discoveries, was born 
at Aswarby, near Sleaford, and Sir John Franklin, 
who sailed with him in the Investigator, and was subse- 
quently to become an Australian Governor and to 
achieve a pathetic immortality in another field of ex- 
ploration, entered the world at Spilsby. Sir Joseph 
Banks, the botanist of Cook's first voyage, Flinders' 
steadfast friend, and the earliest potent advocate of Aus- 
tralian colonization, though not actually born in 
Lincolnshire, was the son of a squire who at the time 
of his birth owned Revesby Abbey, which is within a 
short ride of each of the places just named. 

Chapter II. 

Young Flinders received his preparatory education at 
the Donington free school. This was an institution 
founded and endowed in 1718 by Thomas Cowley, who 
bequeathed property producing nowadays about £1,200 
a year for the maintenance of a school and almshouses. 
It was to be open to the children of all the residents of 
Donington parish free of expense, and in addition there 
was a fund for paying premiums on the apprenticeship 
of boys. 

At the age of twelve the lad was sent to the Horb- 
ling Grammar School, not many miles from his own 
home. It was under the direction of the Rev. John 
Shinglar. Here he remained three years. He was 
introduced to the Latin and Greek classics, and received 
the grounding of that mathematical knowledge which 
subsequently enabled him to master the science of navi- 
gation without a tutor. If to Mr. Shinglar's instruc- 
tion was likewise due his ability to write good, sound, 
clear English, we who read his letters and published 
writings have cause to speak his schoolmaster's name 
with respect. 

During his school days another book besides those 
prescribed in the curriculum came into his hands He 
read Robinson Crusoe. It was to Defoe's undying tale 
of the stranded mariner that he attributed the awaken- 
ing in his own mind of a passionate desire to sail in un- 
charted seas. This anecdote happens to be better 
authenticated than are many of those quoted to illus- 
trate the youth of men of mark. Towards the end of 
Flinders' life the editor of the Naval Chronicle sent to 



him a series of questions, intending to found upon the 
answers a biographical sketch. One question was: 
"Juvenile or miscellaneous anecdotes illustrative of 
individual character?" The reply was : "Induced to go 
to sea against the wishes of friends from reading 
Robinson Crusoe." 

The case, interesting as it is, has an exact parallel in 
the life of a famous French traveller, Rene Caille, who 
in 1828, after years of extraordinary effort and en- 
durance, crossed Senegal, penetrated Central Africa, 
and was the first European to visit Timbuctoo. He 
also had read Defoe's masterpiece as a lad, and 
attributed to it the awakening in his breast of a yearn- 
ing for adventure and discovery. "The reading of 
Robinson Crusoe" says a French historian, "made upon 
him a profound impression." "I burned to have ad- 
ventures of my own," he wrote later; "I felt as I read 
that there was born within my heart the ambition to 
distinguish myself by some important discovery."* 

Here were astonishing results to follow from the 
vivid fiction of a gouty pamphleteer who wrote to 
catch the market and was hoisted into immortal fame 
by the effort: that his book should, like a spark falling 
on straw, fire the brains of a French shoemaker's 
apprentice and a Lincolnshire schoolboy, impelling each 
to a career crowded with adventure, and crowned with 
memorable achievements. There could hardly be 
better examples of the vitalising efficacy of fine litera- 

A love of Robinson Crusoe remained with Flinders 
to the end. Only a fortnight before his death he 
wrote a note subscribing for a copy of a new edition of 
the book, with notes, then announced for publication. 
It must have been one of the last letters from his hand. 
Though out of its chronological order, it may be 

* Gaffarel, La Politique coloniale en France (1908), p. 34. 


appropriately quoted here to connect it with the other 
references to the book which so profoundly influenced 
his life: — 

"Captain Flinders presents his compliments to the 
Hydrographer of the Naval Chronicle, and will thank 
him to insert his name in the list of subscribers in his 
new edition of Robinson Crusoe; he wishes also that 
the volume on delivery should have a neat, common 
binding, and be lettered. — London Street, July 5, 

It seems clear that Flinders had promised himself 
the pleasure of re-reading in maturity the tale that had 
so delighted his youth. Had he lived to do so, he 
might well have underlined, as applicable to himself, a 
pair of those sententious observations with which Defoe 
essayed to give a sober purpose to his narrative. The 
first is his counsel of "invincible patience under the 
worst of misery, indefatigable application, and un- 
daunted resolution under the greatest and most dis- 
couraging circumstances." The second is his wise 
remark that " the height of human wisdom is to bring 
our tempers down to our circumstances, and to make a 
great calm within under the weight of the greatest 
storm without." They were words which Flinders 
during strenuous years had good cause to translate into 

The edition of the book to which he thus subscribed 
was undertaken largely on account of his acknowledg- 
ment of its effect upon his life. The author of the 
Naval Chronicle sketch of his career* wrote in a foot- 
note: "The biographer, also happening to understand 
that to the same cause the Navy is indebted for 
another of its ornaments, Admiral Sir Sydney Smythe, 
was in a great measure thereby led to give another 

•Vol. XXXII. (1814). 


studious reading to that charming story, and thence to 
adopt a plan for its republication, now almost at 
maturity;" and he commended the new issue especially 
"to all those engaged in the tuition of youth." 

One other anecdote of Flinders' boyhood has been 
preserved as a family tradition. It is that, while still 
a child, he was one day lost for some hours. He was 
ultimately found in the middle of one of the sea marshes, 
his pockets stuffed with pebbles, tracing the runlets of 
water, so that by following them up he might find out 
whence they came. Many boys might have done the 
same ; but this particular boy, in that act of inquiry con- 
cerning geographical phenomena on a small scale, 
showed himself father to the man. 

" Against the wish of friends," Flinders wrote, was 
his selection of a naval career. His father steadily but 
kindly opposed his desire, hoping that his son would 
adopt the medical profession. But young Matthew 
was not easily thwarted. The call of the sea was 
strong within him, and persistency was always a fibrous 
element in his character. 

The surgeon's house at Donington stood in the 
market square. It remained in existence till 1908, when 
it was demolished to give place to what is described as "a 
hideous new villa." It was a plain, square, one- 
story building with a small, low surgery built on to one 
side of it. Behind the door of the surgery hung a slate, 
upon which the elder Flinders was accustomed to write 
memoranda concerning appointments and cases. The 
lad, wishing to let his father know how keen was his 
desire to enter the Navy, and dreading a conversation 
on the subject — with probable reproaches, admonitions, 
warnings, and a general outburst of parental dis- 
pleasure — made use of the surgeon's slate. He wrote 
upon it what he wanted his father to know, hung it on 
the nail, and left it there to tell its quiet story. 


He got his way in the end, but not without dis- 
couragement from other quarters also. He had an 
uncle in the Navy, John Flinders, to whom he wrote 
asking for counsel. John's experience had not made 
him enamoured of his profession, and his reply was 
chilling. He pointed out that there was little chance of 
success without powerful interest. Promotion was 
slow and favouritism was rampant. He himself had 
served eleven years, and had not yet attained the rank 
of lieutenant, nor were his hopes of rising better than 

From the strictly professional point of view it was 
not unreasonable advice for the uncle to give. A 
student of the naval history of the period finds much 
to justify a discouraging attitude. Even the dazzling 
career of Nelson might have been frustrated by a long 
protracted minority had he not had a powerful hand 
to help him up the lower rungs of the ladder — the 
"interest" of Captain Suckling, his uncle, who in 1775 
became Comptroller of the Navy, " a civil position, but 
one that carried with it power and consequently 
influence." Nelson became lieutenant after seven 
years' service, in 1777; but he owed his promotion to 
Suckling, who " was able to exert his influence in behalf 
of his relative by promptly securing for him not only 
his promotion to lieutenant, which many waited for 
long, but with it his commission, dated April 10, to the 
Lowestofte, a frigate of thirty-two guns."* 

That even conduct of singular merit, performed in 
the crisis of action, was not sufficient to secure advance- 
ment, is illustrated by a striking fact in the life of Sir 
John Hindmarsh, the first Governor of South Aus- 
tralia (1836). At the battle of the Nile, Hindmarsh, 
a midshipman of fourteen, was left in charge of the 

*Mahan, Life of Nelson (edit, of 1899), pp. 13-14. 


Bellerophon, all the other officers being killed or 
wounded. (It was upon this same vessel, as we shall 
see later, that Flinders had a taste of sea fighting). 
When the French line-of-battle ship L'Orient took fire 
she endangered the Bellerophon. The boy, with wonder- 
ful presence of mind, called up some hands, cut the 
cables, and was running the ship out of danger under 2 
sprit sail, when Captain Darby came on deck from 
having his wounds dressed. Nelson, hearing of the inci- 
dent, thanked young Hindmarsh before the ship's com- 
pany, and afterwards gave him his commission in front 
of all hands, relating the story to them. "The sequel," 
writes Admiral Sir T. S. Pasley, who relates the facts 
in his Journal, "does not sound so well. Lord Nelson 
died in 1805, and Hindmarsh is a commander still, in 
1830, not having been made one till June, 1814." A 
man with such a record certainly had to wait long before 
the sun of official favour shone upon him; and his 
later success was won, not in the navy, but as a colonial 

There was, then, much to make John Flinders believe 
that influence was a surer way to advancement than 
assiduous application or natural capacity. His own 
naval career did not turn out happily. A very few 
years afterwards he received his long-delayed promo- 
tion, served as lieutenant in the Cygnet, on the West 
Indies station, under Admiral Affleck, and died of 
yellow fever on board his ship in 1793. 

John Flinders' letter, however, concluded with a 
piece of practical advice, in case his nephew should be 
undeterred by his opinion. He recommended the study 
of three works as a preparation for entering the Navy : 
Euclid, John Robertson's Elements of Navigation (first 
edition published in 1754) and Hamilton Moore's book 
on Navigation. Matthew disregarded the warning 
and took the practical advice. The books were pro- 


cured, and the young student plunged into their prob- 
lems eagerly. The year devoted to their study in that 
quiet little fen town made him master of rather more 
than the elements of a science which enabled him to 
become one of the foremost discoverers and 
cartographers of a continent. He probably also 
practised map-making with assiduity, for his charts are 
not only excellent as charts, but also singularly beautiful 
examples of scientific drawing. 

After a year of book-work Flinders felt capable of 
acquitting himself creditably at sea, if he could secure 
an opportunity. In those days entrance to the Royal 
Navy was generally secured by the nomination of a 
senior officer. There was no indispensable examina- 
tion; no naval college course was necessary. The 
captain of a ship could take a youth on board to oblige 
his relatives, "or in return for the cancelling of a trades- 
man's bill."* It so happened that a cousin of Flinders 
occupied the position of governess in the family of 
Captain Pasley (afterwards Admiral Sir Thomas 
Pasley) who at that time commanded H.M.S. Scipio. 
One of her pupils, Maria Pasley, developed into a 
young lady of decidedly vigorous character, as the 
following incident sufficiently shows. While her father 
was commander-in-chief at Plymouth, she was one day 
out in the Channel, beyond the Eddystone, in the 
Admiral's cutter. As the country was at war, she was 
courting danger; and in fact, the cutter was sighted by 
a French cruiser, which gave chase. But Miss Pasley 
declined to run away. She "popped at the Frenchman 
with the cutter's two brass guns." It was like blowing 
peas at an elephant; and she would undoubtedly have 
been captured, had not an English frigate seen the. 
danger and put out to the rescue. 

* Masefield's Sea Life in Nelson's Time (1905) gives a good 
account of the practice. 


Flinders' cousin had interested herself in his studies 
and ambitions, and gave him some encouragement. She 
also spoke about him to Captain Pasley, who seems to 
have listened sympathetically. It interested him to 
hear of this boy studying navigation without a tutor up 
among the fens. "Send for him," said Pasley, "I 
should like to see what stuff he is made of, and whether 
he is worth making into a sailor" 

Young Matthew, then in his fifteenth year, was 
accordingly invited to visit the Pasleys. In the later 
part of his life he used to relate with merriment, how 
he went, was asked to dine, and then pressed to stay 
till next day under the captain's roof. He had brought 
no night attire with him, not having expected to sleep 
at the house. When he was shown into his bedroom, 
his needs had apparently been anticipated; for there, 
folded up neatly upon the pillow, was a sleeping gar- 
ment ready for use. He appreciated the consideration; 
but having attired himself for bed, he found himself 
enveloped in a frothy abundance of frills and fal-lals, 
lace at the wrists, lace round the neck, with flutters of 
ribbon here and there. When, at the breakfast table 
in the morning, he related how he had been rigged, 
there was a shriek of laughter from the young ladies; 
the simple explanation being that one of them had 
vacated her room to accommodate the visitor, and had 
forgotten to remove her nightdress. 

The visit had more important consequences. 
Captain Pasley very soon saw that he had an excep- 
tional lad before him, and at once put him on the Alert. 
He was entered as "lieutenant's servant" on October 
23rd, 1789. He remained there for rather more than 
seven months, learning the practical part of a sailor's 
business. On May 17th, 1790, he was able to present 
himself to Captain Pasley on the Scipio at Chatham, 
as an aspirant of more than ordinary efficiency; and 


remained under his command until the next year, follow- 
ing him as a midshipman when he left the Scipio for 
the Bellerophon in July, 1790. 

This famous ship, which carried 74 guns, and 
was launched in 1786, is chiefly known to history 
as the vessel upon which Napoleon surrendered 
to Captain Maitland on July 15th, 1815, after 
the Waterloo debacle. She took a prominent part 
in Nelson's great battles at the Nile and Trafalgar. 
But her end was pitifully ignoble. After a glorious 
and proud career, she was converted into a convict hulk 
and re-named the Captivity. A great prose master has 
reminded us, in words that glow upon his impassioned 
page, of the slight thought given by the practical 
English to the fate of another line-of-battle ship that 
had flown their colours in the stress of war. "Those 
sails that strained so full bent into the battle, that broad 
bow that struck the surf aside, enlarging silently in 
steadfast haste full front to the shot, those triple ports 
whose choirs of flame rang forth in their courses, into the 
fierce avenging monotone, which, when it died away, 
left no answering voice to rise any more upon the sea 
against the strength of England, those sides that were 
wet with the long runlets of English life-blood, like 
press-planks at vintage, gleaming goodly crimson down 
to the cast and clash of the washing foam, those pale 
masts that stayed themselves up against the war-ruin, 
shaking out their ensigns through the thunder, till sail 
and ensign drooped, steeped in the death-stilled pause 
of Andalusian air, burning with its witness clouds of 
human souls at rest — surely for these some sacred care 
might have been left in our thoughts, some quiet resting 
place amidst the lapse of English waters? Nay, not 
so, we have stern keepers to trust her glory to, the fire 
and the worm. Never more shall sunset lay golden 
robe on her, nor starlight tremble on the waves that 


part at her gliding. Perhaps, where the gate opens to 
some cottage garden, the tired traveller may ask, idly, 
why the moss grows so green on its rugged wood; and 
even the sailor's child may not answer nor know, that 
the night-dew lies deep in the war-rents of the wood of 
the old Temeraire." 

But even the decline of might and dignity into 
decrepitude and oblivion described in that luminous 
passage is less pathetic than the conversion of the 
glorious Bellerophon, with her untarnished traditions 
of historic victories, into a hulk for the punishment of 
rascals, and the changing of her unsullied name to an 
alias significant only of shame. 

During this preliminary period Flinders learnt the 
way about a ship and acquired instruction in the 
mechanism of seamanship, but there was as yet no 
opportunity to obtain deep-water experience. He was 
transferred to the Dictator for a brief period, but as 
he neither mentions the captain nor alludes to any other 
circumstance connected therewith, it was probably a 
mere temporary turnover or guardship rating not to 
lose any time of service.* 

His first chance of learning something about the 
width of the world and the wonder of its remote places 
came in 1791, when he went to sea under the command 
of a very remarkable man. William Bligh had sailed 
with James Cook on his third and fatal voyage of dis- 
covery, 1776-80. He was twenty-three years of age 
when he was selected by that sagacious leader as one of 
those young officers who "under my direction could be 
usefully employed in constructing charts, in taking 
views of the coasts and headlands near which we should 
pass, and in drawing plans of the bays and harbours in 
which we should anchor;" for Cook recognised that 
constant attention to these duties was "wholly requisite 

* Naval Chronicle (1814). 


if we would render our discoveries profitable to future 

Bligh's name appears frequently in Cook's Journal, 
and is also mentioned in King's excellent narrative of 
the conclusion of the voyage after Cook's murder. He 
was master of the Resolution, and was on several 
occasions entrusted with tasks of some consequence : as 
for instance on first reaching Hawaii, when Cook sent 
him ashore to look for fresh water, and again at 
Kealakeakura Bay (January 16, 1779) when he re- 
ported that he had found good anchorage and fresh 
water "in a situation admirable to come at." It was a 
fatal discovery, for on the white sands of that bay, a 
month later (February 14), the great British seaman 
fell, speared by the savages. 

On each of Cook's voyages a call had been made at 
Tahiti in the Society group. Bligh no doubt heard 
much about the charms of the place before he first saw it 
himself. He was destined to have his own name 
associated with it in a highly romantic and adventurous 
manner. The idyllic beauty of the life of the Tahitians, 
their amiable and seductive characteristics, the warm 
suavity of the climate, the profusion of food and drink 
to be enjoyed on the island with the smallest conceivable 
amount of exertion, made the place stand out in all 
the narratives of Cook's expeditions like a green-and- 
golden gem set in a turquoise sea, a lotos-land "in which 
it seemed always afternoon," a paradise where love and 
plenty reigned and care and toil were not. George 
Forster, the German naturalist who accompanied Cook 
on his second voyage, wrote of the men as "models of 
masculine beauty," whose perfect proportions would 
have satisfied the eye of Phidias or Praxiteles; of the 
women as beings whose "unaffected smiles and a wish to 

* Cook's Voyages (edition of 1821), V., 92. 


please ensure them mutual esteem and love;" and of the 
life they led as being diversified between bathing in 
cool streams, reposing under tufted trees, feeding on 
luscious fruits, telling tales, and playing the flute. In 
fact, Forster declared, they "resembled the happy, indo- 
lent people whom Ulysses found in Phaeacia, and could 
apply the poet's lines to themselves with peculiar pro- 
priety : 

1 To dress, to dance, to sing our sole delight, 
The feast or bath by day, and love by night/ ,: 

In Tahiti grew an abundance of breadfruit. It 
was in connection with this nutritious food, one of 
nature's richest gifts to the Pacific, that Bligh under- 
took a mission which involved him in a mutiny, launched 
him upon one of the most dangerous and difficult 
voyages in the annals of British seamanship, and pro- 
vided a theme for a long poem by one of the greatest 
of English authors. Byron it was who, writing as 
though the trees sprouted quartern loaves ready baked, 
said of it ("The Island," II., 11): 

" The bread-tree, which without the ploughshare yields 
The unreaped harvest of unfurrowed fields, 
And bakes its unadulterated loaves 
Without a furnace in unpurchased groves, 
And flings off famine from its fertile breast, 
A priceless market for the gathering guest." 

Breadfruit had been tasted and described by 
Dampier in the seventeenth century. His description 
of it has all the terse directness peculiar to the writing 
of the inquisitive buccaneer, with a touch of quaintness 
that makes the passage desirable to quote: — * 

"The breadfruit, as we call it, grows on a large tree 
as big and as tall as our largest apple trees. It hath 
a spreading head full of branches and dark leaves. The 
fruit grows on the boughs like apples; it is as big as a 

*Dampier's Voyages (edition of 1729), I., 294. 


penny loaf when wheat is at five shillings the bushel. 
The natives of this island (Suam) use it for bread. 
They gather it when full-grown ; then they bake it in an 
oven, which scorcheth the rind and makes it black; but 
they scrape off the outside black crust and there remains 
a tender thin crust and the inside is soft, tender and 
white, like the crumb of a penny loaf. There is neither 
seed nor stone in the inside, but all is of a pure sub- 
stance like bread; it must be eaten new, for if it is kept 
above twenty-four hours it becomes dry and eats harsh 
and chokey; but 'tis very pleasant before it is too stale." 

By Dampier, who in the course of his astonishing 
career had consumed many strange things — who found 
shark's flesh "good entertainment," and roast opossum 
"sweet wholesome meat" — toleration in the matter of 
things edible was carried to the point of latitudi- 
nananism. We never find Dampier squeamish about 
anything which anybody else could eat with relish. To 
him, naturally, the first taste of breadfruit was pleasing. 
But Cook was more critical. "The natives seldom 
make a meal without it," he said, "though to us the 
taste was as disagreeable as that of a pickled olive 
generally is the first time it is eaten." That opinion, 
perhaps, accords with the common experience of 
neophytes in tropical gastronomy. But new sensations 
in the matter of food are not always to be depended on. 
Sir Joseph Banks disliked bananas when he first tasted 

The immense popularity of Cook's voyages spread 
afar the fame of breadfruit as an article of food. 
Certain West Indian planters were of opinion that it 
would be advantageous to establish the trees on their 
islands and to encourage the consumption of the fruit by 
their slaves. Not only was it considered that the use 
of breadfruit would cheapen the cost of the slaves' 
living, but — a consideration that weighed both with the 


planters and the British Government in view of existing 
relations with the United States — it was also believed 
that it would ''lessen the dependence of the sugar 
islands on North America for food and necessaries."* 

The planters petitioned the Government to fit out 
an expedition to transplant trees from the Pacific to the 
Atlantic. Sir Joseph Banks strongly supported them, 
and Lord Hood, then First Lord of the Admiralty, 
was sympathetic. In August, 1787, Lieutenant Bligh 
was appointed to the command of the Bounty, was 
directed to sail to the Society Islands, to take on board 
"as many trees and plants as may be thought necessary," 
and to transplant them to British possessions in the 
West Indies. 

The vessel sailed, with two skilled gardeners on 
board to superintend the selection and treatment of the 
plants. Tahiti was duly reached, and the business of 
the expedition was taken in hand. One thousand and 
fifteen fine trees were chosen and carefully stowed. But 
the comfortable indolence, the luxuriant abundance, the 
genial climate, the happy hospitality of the handsome 
islanders, and their easy freedom from compunction in 
reference to restraints imposed by law and custom in 
Europe, had a demoralising effect upon the crew of the 
Bounty. A stay of twenty-three weeks at the island 
sufficed to subvert discipline and to persuade some of 
Bligh's sailors that life in Tahiti was far preferable to 
service in the King's Navy under the rule of a severe 
and exacting commander. 

When the Bounty left Tahiti on April 14, 1787, re- 
luctance plucked at the heart of many of the crew. The 
morning light lay tenderly upon the plumes of the 
palms, and a light wind filled the sails of the ship as 
she glided out of harbour. As the lazy lapping 

* Bryan Edwards, History of the British West Indies (1819), 
I., xl. 


wash of the waters against the low outer fringe of coral 
was lost to the ear, the Bounty breasted the deep ocean ; 
and as the distinguishable features of green tree, white 
sand, brown earth, and grey rock faded out of vision, 
wrapped in a haze of blue, till at last the only pro- 
nounced characteristic of the island standing up against 
the sky and sea was the cap of Point Venus at the 
northern extremity — the departure must have seemed to 
some like that of Tannhauser from the enchanted 
mountain, except that the legendary hero was glad to 
make his return to the normal world, whereas all of 
Bligh's company were not. For them, westward, 
whither they were bound, 

" There gaped the gate 
Whereby lost souls back to the cold earth went." 

The discipline of ship's life, and the stormings and ob- 
jurgations of the commanding officer, chafed like an 
iron collar. At length a storm burst. 

On April 28 the Bounty was sailing towards Tofoa, 
another of the Society Islands. Just before sunrise on 
the following morning Bligh was aroused from sleep, 
seized and bound in his cabin by a band of mutineers, 
led out by the master's mate, Fletcher Christian, and, 
with eighteen companions, dropped into a launch and 
bidden to depart. The followers of Christian were 
three midshipmen and twenty-five petty officers and 
sailors. They turned the head of the Bounty back 
towards their island paradise; and as they sailed away, 
the mariners in the tossing little boat heard them calling 
"Hurrah for Tahiti!" 

The frail craft in which the nineteen loyalists were 
compelled to attempt to traverse thousands of miles of 
ocean, where the navigation is perhaps the most intri- 
cate in the world, was but 23 feet long by 6 feet 9 inches 
broad and 2 feet 9 inches deep. Their provisions con- 
sisted of 150 pounds of bread, 16 pieces of pork, each 


about two pounds in weight, six quarts of rum, six 
bottles of wine, and 28 gallons of water. With this 
scanty stock of nourishment, in so small a boat, Bligh 
and his companions covered 3,618 miles, crossing the 
western Pacific, sailing through Torres Strait, and ulti- 
mately reaching Timor. 

That Bligh was somewhat deficient in tact and 
sympathy in handling men, cross-grained, harsh, and 
obstinate, is probably true. His language was often 
lurid, he lavished foul epithets upon his crew, and he 
was not reluctant to follow terms of abuse by vigorous 
chastisement. He called Christian a "damned hound," 
some of the men "scoundrels, thieves and rascals," and 
he met a respectful remonstrance with the retort: "You 
damned infernal scoundrels, I'll make you eat grass or 
anything you can catch before I have done with you." 
Naval officers of the period were not addicted to 
addressing their men in the manner of a lady with a pet 
canary. Had Bligh's language been the head and front 
of his offending, he would hardly have shocked an 
eighteenth century fo'c'sle. But his disposition does 
not seem to have bound men to him. He generated 
dislike. Nevertheless it is credible that the explanation 
which he gave goes far to explain the mutiny. He held 
that the real cause was a species of sensuous intoxication 
which had corrupted his crew. 

"The women of Tahiti," Bligh wrote, "are hand- 
some, mild and cheerful in their manners and conversa- 
tion, possessed of great sensibility, and have sufficient 
delicacy to make them admired and loved. The chiefs 
were so much attached to our people that they rather 
encouraged their stay among them than otherwise, and 
even made them promises of large possessions. Under 
these and other attendant circumstances equally 
desirable, it is perhaps not so much to be wondered at, 
though scarcely possible to have been foreseen, that a 


set of sailors, many of them void of connections, should 
be led away ; especially when in addition to such power- 
ful inducements they imagined it in their power to fix 
themselves in the midst of plenty on one of the finest 
islands in the world, where they need not labour, and 
where the allurements of dissipation are beyond any- 
thing that can be conceived. . . . Had their mutiny 
been occasioned by any grievance, either real or imagin- 
ary, I must have discovered symptoms of their dis- 
content, which would have put me on my guard ; but the 
case was far otherwise. Christian in particular I was 
on the most friendly terms with; that very day he was 
engaged to have dined with me; and the preceding night 
he excused himself from supping with me on pretence 
of being unwell, for which I felt concerned, having no 
suspicions of his integrity and honour." 

Support is given to Bligh's explanation by a state- 
ment alleged to have been made by Fletcher Christian 
a few years later, the genuineness of which, however, is 
open to serious question. If it could be accepted, 
Christian acquitted his commander of having con- 
tributed to the mutiny by harsh conduct. He ascribed 
the occurrence "to the strong predilection we had con- 
tracted for living in Tahiti, where, exclusive of the 
happy disposition of the inhabitants, the mildness of the 
climate, and the fertility of the soil, we had formed 
certain tender connections which banished the remem- 
brance of old England from our breasts." The weight 
of evidence justifies the belief that Bligh, though a 
sailor of unequivocal skill and dauntless courage, was 
an unlikeable man, and that aversion to service under 
him was a factor contributing to the mutiny which can- 
not be explained away. 

Bligh is the connecting link between Cook and 
Flinders. Bligh learned under Cook to experience the 
thrilling pleasure of discovery and to pursue oppor- 


tunities in that direction in a scientific spirit. Flinders 
learnt the same lesson under Bligh, and bettered the 
instruction. Cook is the first great scientific navigator 
whose name is associated with the construction of the 
map of Australia; so much can be said without dis- 
paragement of the adventurous Dutchmen who pieced 
together the outline of the western and northern coasts. 
Flinders was the second; and Bligh, pupil of the one and 
teacher of the other, deserves a better fate than to be 
remembered chiefly as a sinister figure in two historic 
mutinies, that of the Bounty, and that which ended his 
governorship of New South Wales in 1808. Much 
worse men have done much worse things than he, have 
less that is brave, honourable, enterprising and original 
to their credit, and yet are remembered without 
ignominy. It is said by Hooker: "as oftentimes the 
vices of wicked men do cause other their commendable 
virtues to be abhorred, so the honour of great men's 
virtues is easily a cloak to their errors." Bligh fell 
short of being a great man, but neither was he a bad 
man; and the merit of his achievements, both as a navi- 
gator and amid the shock of battle (especially at Copen- 
hagen in 1801, under Nelson), must not be over- 
looked, even though stern history will not permit his 
errors to be cloaked. 

Notwithstanding the failure of the Bounty ex- 
pedition, Sir Joseph Banks pressed upon the Govern- 
ment the desirableness of transplanting breadfruit trees 
to the West Indies. He also proved a staunch friend 
to Bligh. The result was that the Admiralty resolved 
to equip a second enterprise for the same purpose, and 
to entrust the command of it to the same officer. 

We may now follow the fortunes of Matthew 
Flinders under the tutelage of this energetic captain. 

Chapter III. 


Bligh's second expedition was authorised by the Ad- 
miralty in March, 1791, and the commander was con- 
sulted as to "what sort of vessel may be best adapted to 
the object in view." The Providence, a 28-gun ship, 
was chosen, with the brig Assistant as a tender. The 
latter was placed in charge of Lieutenant Nathaniel 
Portlock. Flinders, eager for sea experience, joined 
the Providence as a midshipman on May 8th, and thus 
had the advantage of being under the immediate direc- 
tion of her captain. 

He took this step with Pasley's concurrence, if not 
actually upon his advice. The captain wrote him an 
encouraging letter asking him to send from time to time 
observations on places visited during the voyage; and 
his protege complied with the injunction. It is to this 
fact that we owe some entertaining passages from young 
Flinders' pen concerning the voyage. The letters des- 
patched to Pasley are lost; but Flinders, with the love 
of neatness which was ever characteristic of him, sent 
only fair copies, and seme of his original drafts remain 
in manuscript. Pasley's letter was as follows : — * 

" Bellerophon, 


June 3rd, 1791 
" Dear Flinders, 

" I am favoured with your letter on your return from 
visiting your friends at the country, and I am pleased to 
hear that you are so well satisfied with your situation on 

• Flinders' Papers. 



board the Providence. I have little doubt of your gain- 
ing the good opinion of Capt. Bligh, if you are equally 
attentive to your duty there as you were in the Bellero- 
photi. All that I have to request in return for the good 
offices I have done you is that you never fail writing 
me by all possible opportunities during your voyage; 
and that in your letters you will be very particular and 
circumstantial in regard to every thing and place you 
may chance to see or visit, with your own observations 
thereon. Do this, my young friend, and you may rest 
assured that my good offices will not be wanting some 
future day for your advancement. All on board are 
well. Present my kind remembrances to Captain and 
Mrs. Bligh, and believe me, yours very sincerely, 

Thomas Pasley." 

The Providence and Assistant left England on 
August 2nd. From Santa Cruz in Teneriffe Flinders 
sent his first letter to Captain Pasley. It is worth while 
to quote a few passages :* 

"Not a large town; streets wide, ill-paved and 
irregular. The houses of the principal inhabitants 
large; have little furniture, but are airy and pleasant, 
suitable to the climate. Most of them have balconies, 
where the owners sit and enjoy the air. Those of the 
lower classes ill-built, dirty, and almost without furni- 
ture. In the square where the market is held, near the 
pier, is a tolerably elegant marble obelisk in honour of 
our Lady of Candelaria, the tutelar goddess of the place. 
The Spaniards erected this statue, calling it Our Lady, 
keeping up some semblance of the ancient worship that 
they might better keep the Tenerifeans in subjection. 
At the top of the obelisk is placed the statue, and at its 
base are four well executed figures, representing the 
ancient kings or princes of Teneriffe, each of which has 

* Flinders' Papers. 


the shin-bone of a man's leg in his hand. This image 
is held in great honour by the lower classes of people, 
who tell many absurd stories of its first appearance in 
the island, the many miracles she has wrought, etc. 

"We visited a nunnery of the order of St. Dominic. 
In the chapel was a fine statue of the Virgin Mary, with 
four wax candles burning before her. Peeping through 
the bars, we perceived several fine young women at 
prayers. A middle-aged woman opened the door half- 
way, but would by no means suffer us to enter this 
sanctified spot. None of the nuns would be prevailed 
upon to come near us. However, they did not seem 
at all displeased at our visit, but presented us with a 
sweet candy they call Duke, and some artificial flowers, 
in return for which Mr. Smith* gave them a dollar. In 
general these people appear to be a merry, good-natured 
people, and are courteous to and appear happy to see 
strangers. We found this always the case, although 
they said we were no Christians: but they generally 
took care to make us pay well for what we had. They 
live principally upon fruits and roots, are fond of sing- 
ing and dancing, and upon the whole they live as lazily, 
as contentedly, and in as much poverty as any French 
peasant would wish to do." 

The Cape of Good Hope was reached in October, 
and Flinders told Captain Pasley what he thought of 
the Dutch colonists: 

"The Dutch, from having great quantities of animal 
food, are rather corpulent. Nevertheless they keep up 
their national characteristic for carefulness. Neither 
are they very polite. A stranger will be treated with a 
great deal of ceremony, but when you come to the solid 
part of a compliment their generosity is at a stand. Of 
all the people I ever saw these are the most ceremonious. 
Every man is a soldier and wears his square-rigged hat, 

* The botanist. 


sword, epaulets, and military uniform. They never 
pass each other without a formal bow, which even des- 
cends to the lowest ranks, and it is even seen in the 

On April 10th, 1792, Bligh's ships anchored at 
Tahiti, where they remained till July 19th. There was 
no disturbance this time, and the relations between 
Bligh and his crew were not embarrassed by the indul- 
gent kindness of the islanders. Their hospitality was 
not deficient, but a wary vigilance was exercised. 

At Tahiti Bligh found the major part of the crew 
of a whaler, the Matilda, which had been wrecked 
about six days' sail from the island. Some of the men 
accepted passages on the Providence and the Assistant; 
some preferred to remain with the natives; one or two 
had already departed in one of the lost ship's boats to 
make their way to Sydney.* Two male Tahitians 
were persuaded to accompany the expedition, with a 
view to their exhibition before the Royal Society, in 
England, when at length, laden with 600 breadfruit 
trees, it sailed for the West Indies. 

The route followed from the Friendly Islands to 
the Caribbean Sea was not via Cape Horn (since that 
cold and stormy passage would have destroyed every 
plant), but back across the Pacific, through Torres 
Strait to Timor, thence across the Indian Ocean and 
round the Cape of Good Hope. St. Helena was 
reached on December 17, and Bligh brought his ships 
safely to Kingston, St. Vincent's, on January 13th 1793. 
Three hundred breadfruit trees were landed at that 
island, and a like number taken to Jamaica. The 
plants were in excellent condition, some of them eleven 
feet high, with leaves 36 inches long. The gardener 
in charge reported to Sir Joseph Banks that the success 

* This incident is reported in the Star, a London newspaper, 
March 2nd, 1793. 


of the transplantations " exceeded the most sanguine ex- 
pectation." The sugar planters were delighted, and 
voted Bligh £500 for his services.* To accentuate the 
contrast between the successful second expedition and 
the lamentable voyage of the Bounty, it is notable that 
only one case of sickness occurred on the way, and that 
from Kingston it was reported that "the healthy appear- 
ance of every person belonging to the expedition is re- 

But though nothing in the nature of a mutiny 
marred the voyage, Flinders' journal shows that Bligh's 
harshness occasioned discontent. There was a short- 
ness of water on the run from the Pacific to the West 
Indies, and as the breadfruit plants had to be watered, 
and their safe carriage was the main object of the 
voyage, the men had to suffer. Flinders and others 
used to lick the drops that fell from the cans to appease 
their thirst, and it was considered a great favour to get 
a sip. The crew thought they were unfairly treated, 
and somebody mischievously watered some plants with 
sea-water. When Bligh discovered the offence, he flew 
into a rage and "longed to flog the whole company." 
But the offender could not be discovered, and the irate 
captain had to let his passion fret itself out. 

Bligh published no narrative of this expedition; but 
Flinders was already accustoming himself to keep care- 
ful notes of his observations. Twenty years later, 
when preparing the historical introduction to his 
Voyage to Terra A us traits, he wrote out from his 
journal (and with Bligh's sanction published) an 
account of the passage of the Providence and Assistant 
through Torres Strait, as a contribution to the history 
of navigation and discovery in that portion of Austral- 
asia. From the Pacific to the Indian Ocean the passage 

* Southey, History of the West Indies (1827), III., 61. 
^Annual Register, 1793, p. 6. 


was accomplished in nineteen days. "Perhaps," com- 
mented Flinders, "no space of 3i degrees in length 
presents more dangers than Torres Strait, but with 
caution and perseverance the captains, Bligh and Port- 
lock, proved them to be surmountable, and within a 
reasonable time." Bligh's Entrance and Portlock 
Reef, marked on modern charts, are reminders of a feat 
of navigation which even nowadays, with the dangers 
accurately described, and the well-equipped Torres 
Strait pilot service to aid them, mariners recognise as 
pregnant with serious risks. On this occasion it was 
also attended with incidents which make it worth while 
to utilise Flinders' notes, since they are of some bio- 
graphical importance. 

The high lands of the south-eastern extremity 
of Papua (New Guinea), were passed on August 
30th, and at dusk on the following day breakers 
"thundering on the reef" were sighted ahead. On 
September 1st the vessels edged round the north end 
of Portlock Reef. Thence the monotonous record 
of soundings, shoals, reefs seen and charted, passages 
tried and abandoned, in the prolonged attempt to 
negotiate a clear course through the baffling coral 
barrier, is relieved by the story of one or two sharp 
brushes with armed Papuans in their long, deftly- 
handled canoes. On September 5th, while boats were 
out investigating a supposed passage near Darnley 
Island, several large canoes shot into view. One of 
these, in which were fifteen "Indians," black and quite 
naked, approached the English cutter, and made signs 
which were interpreted to be amicable. The officer in 
charge, however, suspecting treacherous intentions, did 
not think it prudent to go near enough to accept a green 
cocoanut held up to him, and kept his men rowing for 
the ship. Thereupon a native sitting on the shed 
erected in the centre of the canoe, called a direction to 


the Papuans below him, who commenced to string their 
bows. The officer ordered his men to fire in self- 
defence, and six muskets were discharged. 

"The Indians fell flat into the bottom of the canoe, 
all except the man on the shed. The seventh musket 
was fired at him, and he fell also. During this time the 
canoe dropped astern; and, the three others having 
joined her, they all gave chase to the cutter, trying to 
cut her off from the ship ; in which they would probably 
have succeeded, had not the pinnace arrived at that 
juncture to her assistance. The Indians then hoisted 
their sails and steered for Darnley Island." Flinders 
had watched the encounter from the deck of the Provi- 
dence, and his seaman's word of admiration for the 
skill of the savages in the management of their canoes, 
is notable. "No boats could have been manoeuvred 
better in working to windward, than were these canoes 
of the naked savages. Had the four been able to reach 
the cutter, it is difficult to say whether the superiority of 
our arms would have been equal to the great difference 
of numbers, considering the ferocity of these people and 
the skill with which they seemed to manage their wea- 

Five days later, between Dungeness and Warrior 
Islands, there was a livelier encounter. A squadron of 
canoes attacked both ships in a daring and vigorous 
fashion. The Assistant was pressed with especial 
severity, so that Portlock had to signal for help. A 
volley of musketry had little effect upon the Papuans; 
and when one wing of the attacking squadron, number- 
ing eight canoes, headed for the Providence, and a 
musket was fired at the foremost, the natives responded 
with u a great shout and paddled forward in a body." 
Bligh had one of the great guns of the ship loaded with 
round and grape shot, and fired fair into the first of the 
long Papuan war canoes, which were full of savage 


assailants. The round shot raked the whole length of 
the craft, and struck the high stern. Men from other 
canoes, with splendid bravery, leaped into the water, 
and swam to the assistance of their comrades, "plunging 
constantly to avoid the musket balls which showered 
thickly about them." So hard was the attack pressed, 
that three of the Assistant's crew were wounded, one 
afterwards dying; and "the depth to which the arrows 
penetrated into the decks and sides of the brig was 
reported to be truly astonishing." But bows and 
arrows, on this as on many another occasion, were no 
match for gunnery; so that, after a hot peppering, the 
Papuans gave up the fight, paddling back to a safe dis- 
tance as fast as they could, without exposing themselves 
to fire. They rallied beyond reach of musket balls, as 
though for a second onslaught, but a shot fired over 
their heads from the Providence served to convince 
them of the hopelessness of their endeavour, and they 
abandoned it. 

An incident not without heroic pathos is recorded 
by Flinders. One native was left sitting alone in the 
canoe which the gun-shot of the Providence had raked 
and splintered. The men in the canoes which had 
made good their flight observed their solitary com- 
panion, and some of them returned to him ; whereafter 
"with glasses, signals were perceived to be made by the 
Indians to their friends on Dungeness Island, expres- 
sive, as was thought, of grief and consternation." 
Whether the lone warrior was too severely wounded to 
be moved, or whether he was some Papuan Casabianca 
clinging to his shattered craft "whence all but he had 
fled" or been killed, or hurled into the sea, we are not 
told. But that canoe had been foremost in attack, 
perhaps the flagship of the squadron; and the memory 
of that solitary warrior still sitting upon the floating 
wreck while his defeated companions returned to him, 


and then left him, to explain his case with gestures of 
grief to those on the island, clings to the memory of 
the reader, as it did to that of the young observer and 
historian of the encounter. 

No more natives were seen during the passage 
through Torres Strait, nor were there other incidents to 
enliven the narrative, unless we include the formal 
"taking possession of all the islands seen in the Strait 
for His Britannic Majesty George III., with the cere- 
monies used on such occasions" (September 16). The 
name bestowed upon the whole group of islands was 
Clarence's Archipelago. 

Flinders described the natives whom he saw carefully 
and accurately; and his account of their boats, weapons, 
and mode of warfare is concise and good. Some 
friendly Darnley Islanders were described as stoutly 
made, with bushy hair; the cartilage between the nostrils 
cut away; the lobes of the ears split, and stretched "to 
a good length." "They had no kind of clothing, but 
wore necklaces of cowrie shells fastened to a braid of 
fibres; and some of their companions had pearl-oyster 
shells hung round their necks. In speaking to each 
other, their words seemed to be distinctly pronounced. 
Their arms were bows, arrows, and clubs, which they 
bartered for every kind of iron work with eagerness, but 
appeared to set little value on anything else. The bows 
are made of split bamboo, and so strong that no man 
in the ship could bend one of them. The string is a 
broad slip of cane fixed to one end of the bow; and 
fitted with a noose to go over the other end when 
strung. The arrow is a cane of about four feet long, 
into which a pointed piece of the hard, heavy, casuarina 
wood is firmly and neatly fitted; and some of them were 
barbed. Their clubs are made of casuarina, and are 
powerful weapons. The hand part is indented, and has 
a small knob, by which the firmness of the grasp is 


much assisted ; and the heavy end is usually carved with 
some device. One had the form of a parrot's head, 
with a ruff round the neck, and was not ill done. 

"Their canoes are about fifty feet in length, and 
appear to have been hollowed out of a single tree ; and 
the pieces which form the gunwales are planks sewed on 
with fibres of the cocoanut and secured with pegs. 
These vessels are low forward, but rise abaft; and, 
being narrow, are fitted with an outrigger on each side 
to keep them steady. A raft, of greater breadth than 
the canoe, extends over about half the length, and 
upon this is fixed a shed or hut, thatched with palm 
leaves. These people, in short, appeared to be 
dexterous sailors and formidable warriors, and to be as 
much at ease in the water as in their canoes." 

On September 19th the two ships, with caution and 
perseverance, had threaded their dangerous way 
through the intricate maze of reefs and shoals of Torres 
Strait, and found open sea to the westward. In lati- 
tude 10° $i' "no land was in sight, nor did anything 
more obstruct Captain Bligh and his associates in their 
route to the island Timor." 

It is easy to imagine the delight with which these 
experiences thrilled the young midshipman on the Pro- 
vidence. His eighteenth birthday was spent in the 
Pacific, in the early Autumn of a hemisphere where the 
sea was not yet cloven by innumerable keels, and where 
beauty, enchantment and mystery lay upon life and 
nature like a spell. A few years previously he had 
been a schoolboy in the flattest, most monotonous of 
English shires. Broad fields, dykes and fen had com- 
posed the landscape most familiar to his eye. In these 
surroundings he had dreamed, as a boy will, of palm- 
fanned islands in distant climes, of adventures with 
savage peoples, of strange seas where great fishes are, 
and where romance touches all that is with its purple 


light. Far horizons steeped in marvels had bounded 
the vision of his imagining eye. His passion was to see 
and do in realms at the back of the sunrise. He wanted 
to sail and explore in parts represented by blank spaces 
on the map. 

These dreams of the boy, basking with Robinson 
Crusoe under remote skies, were suddenly translated 
into a reality as dazzling-bright and wonderful as any- 
thing pictured in pages often and fondly conned. This 
was his first voyage, and he was serving under a com- 
mander who had lived the romance that other men 
wrote and read about, who was himself a living part 
of an adventure whose story will be told and re-told to 
the centuries, and who had served under as great and 
noble a captain as ever trod an English deck. 

The very nature of the voyage was bound to stimu- 
late that ''passion for exploring new countries," to use 
Flinders' own phrase, the hope for which was a strong 
factor in prompting him to choose the sea as a career. 
It was a voyage whose primary object involved a stay in 
two of the loveliest regions on the earth, the paradise 
of the Pacific and the gem-like Antilles. The pride 
and pleasure of participation in discovery were his 
forthwith. A new passage through an intricate and 
dangerous Strait was found and charted ; a whole archi- 
pelago was delineated, named, and taken possession of 
for the British nation. The world's knowledge was 
increased. There was something put down on the map 
which was not there before. The contact with the 
islanders in the Strait gave a brisk element of adven- 
ture to the expedition; and certainly Papuan warriors 
are foes as wild and weird as any adventurer can desire 
to meet. The rescuing of wrecked mariners at Tahiti 
added a spice of adventure of another sort. From 
beginning to end, indeed, this voyage must have been as 
full of charm as of utility. 


The effect it had upon the future life of Matthew 
Flinders was very striking. The whole of the salient 
features of his later career follow from it. He made 
the most of his opportunities. Captain Bligh found 
him a clever assistant in the preparation of charts and 
in making astronomical observations. Indeed, says an 
expert writer, although Flinders was as yet " but a 
juvenile navigator, the latter branch of scientific service 
and the care of the timekeepers were principally en- 
trusted to him."* These facts indicate that he was 
applying himself seriously to the scientific side of his 
profession, and that he had won the confidence of a 
captain who was certainly no over-indulgent critic of 

The Providence and the Assistant returned to Eng- 
land in the latter part of 1793. Before Flinders once 
more sighted the Australian coastline he was to ex- 
perience the sensations of battle, and to take a small part 
in the first of the series of naval engagements connected 
with the Revolutionary and Napoleonic era. 

Naval Chronicle, Vol. XXXII., 180. 

Chapter IV. 

When Bligh's expedition returned, Europe was 
staggering under the shock of the French Revolution. 
The head of Louis XVI. was severed in January; the 
knife of Charlotte Corday was plunged into the heart 
of Marat in July; Marie Antoinette, the grey dis- 
crowned Queen of thirty-eight, mounted the scaffold in 
October. The guillotine was very busy, and France 
was frantic amid internal disruption and the menace of 
a ring of foes. 

The English governing classes had been clamouring 
for war. It seemed to many political observers that it 
was positively needful to launch the country into an 
international struggle to divert attention from demands 
for domestic reform. "Democratic ambition was 
awakened; the desire of power, under the name of 
reform, was rapidly gaining ground among the middling 
ranks; the only mode of checking the evil was by en- 
gaging in a foreign contest, by drawing off the ardent 
spirits into active service and, in lieu of the modern 
desire for innovation, rousing the ancient gallantry of 
the British people."* French military operations in the 
Netherlands, running counter to traditional British 
policy, were provocative, and the feeling aroused by the 
execution of Louis immediately led Pitt's ministry to 
order the French Ambassador, Chauvelin, to leave 
London within eight days. He left at once. On 
February 1st, acting on Chauvelin's report of the dis- 
position and preparations of Great Britain, France 
formally declared war. 

♦Alison, History of Europe (1839), II., 128. 



Flinders was with Bligh, peacefully landing bread- 
fruit trees in the West Indies, when this momentous 
opening of a twenty-two years' conflict occurred. When 
the expedition reached England, every port and dock- 
yard on the south coast was humming with preparations 
for a great naval struggle. The Channel Fleet, under 
Lord Howe's command, was cruising in search of the 
enemy's ships of war. Flinders' patron, Pasley, who 
had hoisted his broad pennant as commodore on the 
Bellerophon, was actively engaged in this service. In 
October, 1793, he was detached by Howe to look for 
five French vessels that had some time before chased the 
British frigate Circe into Falmouth. Howe himself, 
with a fleet of 22 sail, put to sea later in the same month. 
On November 18 his squadron sighted six French ships 
of the line and some frigates, and gave chase. But 
they were seen late in the day, and soon darkness pre- 
vented an engagement. On the following morning the 
enemy was again sighted by the chasing squadron under 
Pasley; but the Latona signalled that the French were 
in superior strength, and the British detachment 
retired.* Howe's cruise was barren of results, and the 
British fleet returned to Torbay. Naval operations 
were suspended for several months. 

Flinders naturally took advantage of the earliest 
opportunity to report himself to the friend who had first 
helped him into the King's Navy. Pasley, who was 
promoted on April 12th, 1794, to the rank of Rear- 
Admiral of the White, again welcomed him on board 
the Bellerophon and, hearing from Captain Bligh excel- 
lent accounts of his diligence and usefulness, appointed 
him one of his aides-de-camp. It was in this capacity 
that he took part in the great battle off Brest on June 
1st, 1794, signalised in British naval history as "the 
glorious First of June." 

* James, Naval History (1837), I, 60. 


Lord Howe, with the Channel Fleet (thirty-four 
ships of the line and fifteen frigates) put to sea on May 
2nd with two purposes : first, to convoy to a safe distance 
from the probable field of hostilities a squadron of 148 
British merchantmen bound for various ports; second, 
to intercept and destroy a French fleet which was known 
to be convoying a large company of provision-ships 
from America. War, bad harvests, the disorganiza- 
tion of industry, and revolutionary upheavals, had pro- 
duced an acute scarcity of food in France, and the 
arrival of these vessels was awaited with intense anxiety. 
To prevent their arrival, or to destroy the French 
squadron, would be to strike a serious blow at the 
enemy. Howe had under him a fleet eager for fight; 
against him, a foe keenly aware how vitally necessary 
to their country was the arrival of the food-ships. 

The French fleet (twenty-six ships of the line) 
under the command of Villaret-Joyeuse, put to sea from 
Brest on May 16. Some foggy days intervened. On 
the 28th Howe sighted them. The French admiral 
formed his ships in a close line. Howe's plan was first 
to get his fleet to windward of the enemy, then to sail 
down, pierce his line, and engage his vessels to leeward. 

The Bellerophon was in action shortly after coming 
within striking distance, on the 28th May. Pasley, at 
six o'clock in the evening, attacked the French rear, his 
immediate antagonist being the Rev olutionn aire, 110 
guns. A hot duel, maintained with splendid intrepidity 
by the British rear-admiral, continued for over an hour 
and a quarter, for the other ships of the British fleet 
were unable to get up to support the fast-sailing Belle- 
rophon. She was severely handled by her large antago- 
nist, and was hampered in her ability to manoeuvre 
by a shot which injured her mainmast. Pasley therefore, 
on a signal from the Admiral, bore up. The 
Rev olutionn aire was now attacked from a distance by 


the Russell, the Marlborough and the Thunderer, and 
endeavoured to make off, but was blocked by the 
Leviathan. The Audacious (74) took up the work 
which the Bellerophon had commenced, and, laying her- 
self on the lee quarter of the Revolutionnaire, poured a 
rain of shot into her. The fight was continued in a 
rough sea far into the twilight of that early summer 
evening; until, about 10 o'clock, the Revolutionnaire 
was a mere floating hulk. Her flag had either been 
lowered or shot down, but she was not captured, and 
was towed into Rochefort on the following day. The 
Audacious was so badly knocked about that she was of 
no use for later engagements, and was sent home. 

This was Matthew Flinders' first taste of war. 

Howe's plan for the big battle that was imminent 
involved much manoeuvring, and, as Nelson wrote in 
his celebrated "plan of attack" before Trafalgar, "a 
day is soon lost in that business." The British 
manoeuvred to get the weather gauge; Villaret-Joyeuse 
to keep it. On May 29th Howe in the Queen 
Charlotte pierced the French line with two other ships, 
the Bellerophon and the Leviathan, and there was some 
fighting. The Bellerophon got to windward of the 
enemy by passing in front of the French Terrible 
(110), and put in some excellent gunnery practice. She 
sailed so close to the French ship to starboard as almost 
to touch her, and brought down the enemy's topmast and 
lower yards with a broadside, whilst at the same time 
she raked the Terrible with her larboard guns.* 

May 30 and 31 were foggy days, and neither fleet 
could see the other. On June 1st there was a blue sky, 
a brilliant sun, a lively sea, and a wind that favoured the 

* There is an interesting engraving of the Bellerophon passing 
through the French line and firing both her broadsides in the Naval 
Chronicle, Vol. I., and a plan of the manoeuvre, showing the course 
of the Bellerophon, in James's Naval History. 


plans of the British Admiral. The signal for close 
action was flown from the masthead of the Queen 
Charlotte. Howe ordered his ships to sail on an 
oblique course down upon the French line, the two fleets 
having during the night lain in parallel lines stretching 
east and west. The intention was to break the French 
line near the centre, each British captain sailing round 
the stern of his antagonist, and fighting her to leeward, 
thus concentrating the attack on the enemy's rear, cut- 
ting it off from the van, and preventing flight. 

The Bellerophon was the second ship in the 
British line, next after the Caesar. Flinders was upon 
the quarterdeck as she steered through her selected gap, 
which was on the weather quarter of the Eole; and an 
anecdote of his behaviour on that memorable occasion 
fortunately survives. The guns on the quarterdeck 
were loaded and primed ready for use, but Pasley did 
not intend to fire them until he had laid himself on the 
lee of his chosen adversary, and could pour a broadside 
into her with crushing effect. There was a moment 
when the gunners were aloft trimming sails. As the 
Bellerophon was passing close under the stern of the 
French three-decker — within musket-shot, James says — * 
Flinders seized a lighted match and rapidly fired as 
many of the quarterdeck guns as would plump shot 
fairly into her.f Pasley saw him and, shaking him by 
the collar, said, sternly: "How dare you do that, 
youngster, without my orders?" Flinders replied that 
he "thought it a fine chance to have a shot at 'em." 
So it was, though not in conformity with orders; and 
probably Pasley, as good a fighter as there was in the 
fleet, liked his young aide-de-camp rather the more for 
his impetuous action. 

The guns of the Bellerophon were opened upon the 

* Naval History, I., 154. 

t Naval Chronicle, XXXII., 180. 


Eole at 8.45, and battered her severely. The British 
vessel was subjected in turn, however, not only to the fire 
of her chosen victim, but also to that of the Trajan. 
At ten minutes to eleven o'clock a shot from the Eole 
took off Pasley's leg, and he was carried down to the 
cockpit, whereupon the command devolved upon 
Captain William Hope. It must have been a dis- 
tressing moment for Flinders, despite the intense 
excitement of action, when his friend and commander 
fell ; it was indeed, as will be seen, a crucial moment in 
his career. A doggerel bard of the time enshrined the 
event in a verse as badly in need of surgical aid as were 
the heroes whom it celebrates : 

" Bravo, Bowyer, Pasley, Captain Hutt, 

Each lost a leg, being sorely hurt; 

Their lives they valued but as dirt, 

When that their country called them !"* 

The fight was continued with unflagging vigour, in the 
absence of the gallant rear-admiral, who, as another 
lyrist of the event informs us, smiled and said — 
" Fight on my lads and try 

To make these rebel Frenchmen know 
That British courage still will flow 
To make them strike or die." 

At a quarter before noon the Eole had received such a 
hammering that she endeavoured to wear round under 
shelter of her leader; but in doing so she lost main- 
mast and foretopmast. The Bellerophon, too, had by 
this time been sufficiently hard hit to cause Hope to 
signal to the Latona for assistance. Her foretopmast 
and maintopmast had gone, and her mainmast was so 
badly damaged as to be dangerous. Her rigging was 
cut to pieces, all her boats were smashed, and she was 
practically as crippled as was her brave commander, 

* Naval Songs and Ballads — Publications of the Navy Record 
Society, Vol. XXXIII., 270. 


upon whom the surgeons had been operating down 
below, amid the blood of the cockpit and the thunder 
and smoke of the cannon. 

The battle ended about 1 p.m. The French fleet 
was badly beaten, and Villaret-Joyeuse at the end of the 
day drew back to Brest only a battered, splintered and 
ragged remnant of the fine squadron which he had com- 
manded. Still, the French provision ships slipped by 
and arrived safely in port. The squadron had been 
sent out to enable them to get in, and in they were, 
though it had cost a fleet to get them in. Nelson used 
the phrase "a Lord Howe victory" disparagingly. 
Nothing short of a complete smashing of the enemy and 
the utter frustration of his purposes would ever satisfy 
that ardent soul. 

For the sake of clearness, the general scheme of the 
battle has been described, together with the part played 
in it by the Bellerophon; but we fortunately have a 
detailed account of it by Flinders himself. Young as 
he was, only a few weeks over 20 years of age, 
he was evidently cool, and his journal is crowded 
with carefully observed facts, noted amidst the 
heat and confusion of conflict; and it is doubtful 
whether there is in existence a better story of 
this important fleet action. The manuscript of 
his journal occupies forty foolscap pages. It is 
much damaged by sea-water, the paper in some parts 
having been rendered quite pulpy. But the sheets re- 
lating to the 1st of June are entirely legible. As the 
reader will see, there is here no rhetoric, no excited use 
of vivid adjectives to give colour to the story. It is a 
calmly observed piece of history. Read attentively, 
it enables one to live through the stirring events with 
which it deals in a singularly thrilling style. We feel 
the crash and thunder and hustle of battle far more 
keenly from the detailed accumulation of occurrences 


here presented than any scene-painting prose could make 
us do. The journal begins on September 7th, 1793, 
when Flinders joined the Bellerophon, and continues till 
August 10th, 1794, when he quitted her. In the early 
part it deals principally with cruising up and down the 
Channel looking for the enemy's ships. Occasionally 
there was a skirmish. We may select a few instances 
from this period, before coming to what immediately 
preceded the great day: — 

"Wednesday, 11th (September, 1793) a.m. 
Hoisted a broad pennant by order of Lord Howe, Capt. 
Pasley being appointed a commodore of the fleet. 
Weighed and anchored in our station in Torbay. 

"Monday, November 18th*. Saw nine or ten sail, 
seemingly large ships, standing towards us. The 
admiral made the Russell and Defence signals to chase, 
also the Audacious; and soon after ours. By this time 
the strange ships had brought to, hull down, to wind- 
ward, seemingly in some confusion. The Ganges' 
signal was also made to chase. At 9 the Admiral made 
the sign for the strange fleet being an enemy, and for 
our sternmost ships to make more sail. At 10 the 
signal to engage as the other ships came up was made. 
The enemy had now hauled their wind, and standing 
from us with as much sail as they could carry. Split 
one jib; got another bent as fast as possible. We were 
now the headmost line of battle ship and gaining fast 
upon the enemy; but the main part of our fleet seemed 
rather to drop from them. St. Agnes N. 34° E. 89 
miles. Ship all clear for action since 9 o'clock. 

"Tuesday, November 19th, 1793. Judge six of 
the enemy's ships to be of the line, two frigates and two 
brigs .... On the wind shifting at 4 in a squall, 
tacked, as did the Latona, which brought her near the 

* See note, p. 56. 


* ^ 


& t 

A 4 

V\ I 



* 3 






V -» 

S V 




^ l\ s H I 




rear of the enemy's ships, at which she fired several 
shot; she tacked again at 5, and fired, which the stern- 
most of their ships returned. At dark the enemy passed 
to windward of us, about 5 or 6 miles .... 12, set 
top-gallant-sails, but obliged to take them in again for 
fear of carrying away the masts. Sundry attempts 
were made during the night to set, but as often obliged 
to take them in. At 12 lost sight of all our ships 
except one frigate. The weather very hazy, with 
squalls at times, and at 2 a heavy shower of rain, which 
lasted a considerable time. When it cleared a little, 
saw two or three of the enemy's ships ahead of the 
others on the lee bow. Very thick and hazy, with much 
rain. Made the signal that the enemy had bore away. 
Saw the Latona and Phoenix, who seemed suspicious of 
each other, but on discovering they were friends both 
bore away after one of the enemy's ships . . . About 
9, the Phoenix and Latona being the only friends in 
sight, the latter made the signal for the enemy being 
superior to the ships chasing. Soon after we made the 
signal to call the frigates in. . . . In the firing the pre- 
ceding evening the Latona received a shot between wind 
and water in the breadroom, and another in the galley; 
but happily no one was hurt and but little injury 

An amusing example of an attempt to "dodge," 
under false colours, is related on the following day. 
The trick did not succeed. 

"Wednesday, November 27th, 1793, a.m. Hazy 
weather. Squadron in company. Saw a strange ship 
to the southward, who hoisted an Union Jack at the 
main topmast head and a red flag at the fore. The 
Phoenix being ahead made the private signal, but the 
stranger not answering she made the signal for an 
enemy. We immediately made the general signal to 
chase. At 10 the Phoenix and Latona fired a few shots 


at her, upon which she hoisted French colours, dis- 
charged her guns, and struck. She proved to be La 
Blonde of 28 guns and 190 men. The squadron 
brought to. The French captain came on board and 
surrendered his sword to the commodore. Separated 
the prisoners amongst the squadron. An officer of the 
Phoenix sent to take charge of the prize and a party of 
men from each ship. 

''Tuesday, December 1st, 1793. Brought to. The 
Phoenix sent into Falmouth, Mr. Waterhouse, 
Lieutenant, sent in her to take charge of the Blonde 

The French fleet, as related above, put out of Brest 
on May 16, 1794. Flinders tells us how they were 
sighted, and what happened during the days preceding 
the great battle : — 

"Friday, May 23rd. The Southampton brought a 
strange brig into the fleet and destroyed her . . . a.m. 
A fine little ship, called the Albion, of Bermuda, set on 
fire by the Glory. The Aquilon brought a strange ship 
into the fleet. A galliot, with Dutch colours inverted, 
passed through the fleet, having been set on fire by the 
Niger ... A French man-of-war, captured and 
brought into the fleet by the frigates, was set on fire. 

"Saturday, May 24. The ship brought into the 
fleet by the Aquilon left us and stood to the eastward. 
She was bound to Hull, and was part of a Dutch con- 
voy, most of which had been taken and destroyed by the 
French fleet on Wednesday last. 

"Sunday, May 25th. At daybreak saw four sail 
to windward; our squadron sent in chase. Fired a shot 
and brought to a French brig, man-of-war. Made signal 
that the prize was not secure, and chased a large ship 
further to windward, apparently of the line, and with 
another ship in tow. Tacked as soon as she was on 
our beam. She had cast off her prize as soon as we 


fired at the brig. In passing, fired at and brought to 
a French corvette ; but left her for the fleet to pick up. 
Passed to leeward of the ship the chase had in tow. She 
appeared to be a large merchantman and had up 
American colours. The frigates in chase picked her 
up soon after. At 10 the chase was nearly hull down, 
and gained upon us. Stood back to the fleet, being re- 
called by signal. Saw one of the prizes in flames, and 
found the three had been destroyed at noon; 162 
leagues W. by S. of Ushant." 

In the ensuing pages we are brought into the thick 
of the battle. 

"Wednesday, May 28th. Saw two strange sail, 
one of which the Phoenix spoke, and soon after made 
signal for a strange fleet S.S.W. About 8, we counted 
33 sail, 24 or 25 of which appeared to be of the line, 
and all standing down towards us. At 8.30 our signal 
was made to reconnoitre the enemy — as we were now 
certain they were. A frigate of their's was likewise 
looking at us. At noon the enemy's fleet S.W. to 
W.S.W., on the larboard tack under an easy sail in line 
ahead, and distant 3 or 4 leagues. Our fleet 3 or 4 
leagues to leeward in the order of sailing or under a 
press of sail. Ushant N. 82° E. 143 leagues. 

"Thursday, May 29th, 1794. Fresh gales with 
rain at times, and a swell from the westward. Re- 
peated the general signals for chase, battle, etc. Kd.* 

* "Kd. ship" is an expression which puzzled Professor 
Flinders Petrie, who appended a note to the Flinders papers, 
suggesting that it could hardly mean kedged. Captain Bayldon 
supplies an exceedingly interesting explanation : — 

"Without the least doubt 'Kd. ship' means 'tacked ship.' 'Kd.' 
is either a private abbreviation of Flinders' for 'tacked' or else 
he intended to have written 'Tkd.' There is no nautical term 
beginning with K which would make the least sense under the 
circumstances. ' Kedged ' is utterly inadmissable ; both fleets 
were under way in pretty heavy weather. ' Working to wind- 
ward ' practically means ' tacking ship.' So why did Flinders 
mention an obvious fact, 'tacked ship' ? Because the weather 


ship occasionally, working to windward under a press 
of sail, our squadron and the frigates in company, and 
our fleet a few miles to leeward. About 3 the Russell, 
being a mile or two to windward of us, began to fire on 
the enemy's rear, as they were hauling on the larboard 
tack, and continued to stand on with the Thunderer and 
frigates, to get into their wake. We tacked a little 
before the rear ship was on our beam, which enabled 
us to bring them to action a considerable time before 
the other ships could come up to our assistance. Our 
first fire was directed on a large frigate which brought 
up the enemy's rear, but she soon made sail and went to 
windward of the next ship (a three-decker)* on whom 
we immediately pointed our guns. In a few minutes 
she returned it with great spirit, our distance from her 
being something more than a mile. My Lord Howe, 
seeing us engaged with a three-decked ship, and the next 
ahead of him frequently giving us a few guns, made the 
Russell and Marlborough's signals to come to our assist- 

was bad, strong breezes, heavy swell, and therefore it was very- 
hazardous to tack ship (on account of throwing the sails aback) 
and also many ships could not be forced into tacking with a 
heavy head swell. Consequently it is usual to wear ship under 
these conditions (turn her round before the wind). So he then 
mentions 'under a press of sail,' to force her up into the wind 
(also making it a risky manoeuvre, for they could easily lose 
their masts — foremast especially). Hence he was proud of 
the manoeuvre, so mentions, ' tacked ship occasionally, under a press 
of sail.' On the 29th May at 8 a.m., the French van wore in 
succession. (Fresh wind, heavy head sea). Soon after noon 
(Flinders' old nautical time gives May 30th) Lord Howe signalled 
the British fleet to tack in succession. The leading ship, the Caesar, 
instead of obeying, made the signal of inability and wore round. The 
next ship, the Queen, also wore. So (at 1.30 p.m.) Lord Howe set 
the example in the Queen Charlotte and tacked. Pasley's Bcllcro- 
phon followed him, and tacked also; the Leviathan tacked and 
followed her. These three ships were the only ones to tack. All 
the remainder wore, and so did the French. Either their captains 
would not take the risk, or else could not force their ships through 
the heavy head sea. So I expect Flinders and the 'Bully ruffians' 
felt elated at their performance and he intended to record 'Tkd. 
ship.' " 

* The Rcvolutionnaire. 


ance, they being on the weather quarter. About dusk 
more of the fleet had got up with us, the signal having 
been made to chase without regard to order. The 
Leviathan and Audacious, particularly, passed to wind- 
ward of us, and came to close engagement; the first 
keeping as close to him to leeward as she could fetch, 
and the latter fetching to windward of him, laid herself 
athwart his stern and gave a severe raking. The head- 
most of the French fleet were apparently hove to, but 
made no effort to relieve their comrade. At this time 
our maincap was seen to be so badly sprung as to oblige 
us to take in the main topsail; the larboard topsail sheet 
block was likewise shot away. Got down the top- 
gallant yard and mast, and, the ship being scarcely 
under command, we made the signal for inability. Soon 
after the Admiral called us by signal into his wake. The 
enemy's rear ship about 9 had his mizzenmast gone and 
he bore down towards us, the Russell and Thunderer 
striking close to his weather quarter and lee bow, keep- 
ing up a severe fire, but he scarcely returned a shot. 
Having got clear of them he continued coming down on 
us, apparently with the intention of striking to our flag, 
but firing a shot now and then. He was intercepted by 
one of our ships, who running to leeward of him soon 
silenced his guns, and, we concluded, had obliged him 
to strike. The enemy's fleet were now collected about 
3 miles to windward, carrying lights, as did ours. We 
were in no regular order, it having been broken up by 
the chase. A.M., employed securing the maincap, etc. 
All hands kept at quarters. Fresh breezes and hazy 
weather. At daybreak the enemy's line was formed 
about 2 miles distant, and our commander in chief made 
the signal to form the line of battle, and take stations 
as most convenient. We bore down and took ours 
astern of the Queen Charlotte, the Marlborough and 
Royal Sovereign following. About 8 our fleet tacked 


in succession, with a view to cut off the enemy's rear, 
the Caesar leading and my Lord Howe the 10th ship. 
As soon as our van were sufficiently near to bring them 
to action, the enemy's whole fleet wore in succession, and 
ran to leeward of their line in order to support their 
rear, and edged down van to van. At 10 the firing 
commenced between the headmost ships of both lines, 
but at too great a distance to do much execution, and the 
Admiral made the signal to tack in succession in order 
to bring the enemy to close action, but not being taken 
notice of, about noon it was repeated with a gun. The 
Leviathan, being next ahead of the Admiral, fired some 
guns, but the Queen Charlotte and those astern did not 
attempt it. Hazy weather at noon with a considerable 
swell from the westward. Latitude observed to be 
47° 35' N. Note — We found this morning at day- 
break that the Audacious was missing, and we concluded 
was the ship who had secured the prize, neither being in 

u Friday, May 30th. Fresh breezes and hazy 
weather. The signal for the van to tack was again 
repeated, when the Caesar made the signal of inability; 
but at last they got round, and the Admiral made signal 
to cut through the enemy's line; but finding our leading 
ships were passing to leeward, we tacked a considerable 
time before the ships came in succession, and luffed up 
as close to them as possible. The enemy were now well 
within point-blank shot, which began to fall very thick 
about us, and several had passed through our sails 
before we tacked. Immediately we came into the 
Queen Charlotte's wake we tacked, lay up well for the 
enemy's rear, and began a severe fire, giving it to each 

* Of course this surmise was incorrect. The Audacious had not 
secured the Revolutionnaire which was towed into Rochefort by 
the Audacicux (curious similarity in names). The Audacious 
badly crippled made her way to Plymouth alone. — [Captain Bayl- 
don's note]. 


ship as we passed. My Lord Howe in the Charlotte 
kept his luff, and cut through their line between the 4th 
and 5 th ship in the rear. We followed, and passed 
between the 2nd and 3rd. The rest of the fleet passed 
to leeward. Their third ship gave us a severe broad- 
side on the bow as we approached to pass under her 
stern, and which we took care to return by two on her 
quarter and stern. Before we had cleared her, her fore 
and maintop masts fell over the side, and she was 
silenced for a while, but it was only till we had passed 
her. Their rear ship received several broadsides even 
from our three-deckers, but kept her colours up. The 
Orion then ran down to her, but getting upon her beam 
and too far to leeward was obliged to leave her, and she 
got to her own fleet, whom we were now to windward of. 
Lord Howe made the signal to tack, and for a general 
chase, but few of the van ships were able to follow him. 
For ourselves, we lay to, to reeve new braces and re- 
pair the rigging, which was entirely cut to pieces for- 
ward. The foresail was rendered useless, and was cut 
away, and being only able to set a close-reefed main top- 
sail for fear of the cap giving way, we were not able to 
follow his lordship. The French perceiving how few 
followed them, rallied, tacked, and supported their dis- 
abled ships, and even made a feint to cut off the Queen, 
who was rendered a wreck. The Admiral, seeing their 
intention, bore down with several of the heavy ships 
who had not been engaged, and forced them to leeward 
of our disabled ships. At 5.30 having got a new fore- 
sail bent, and the rigging in a little order, we bore down 
and joined the Admiral, who soon after formed the line 
in two divisions, and stood to the westward under an 
easy sail abreast of the enemy, who were to leeward in 
a line ahead; the disabled ships in both fleets repairing 
their damages, several of theirs being without topmasts 
and topsail yards. At sunset saw two ships pass to 


windward, conjectured to be the Audacious and prize. 
Employed splicing and knotting the rigging, and repair- 
ing sails, not one of which but had several shot through 
them. The truck of the foretopgallant mast was like- 
wise shot away. A.M., thick foggy weather. Saw the 
enemy at times N.N.W. 4 or 5 miles. At noon very 
foggy. Latitude 47° 39' N. by dull observation. 

"Saturday, May 31st, 1794. Lost sight of the 
enemy and only four of our own ships in sight. People 
employed repairing sail, rigging, etc., with all expedition. 
At noon thick and foggy. No enemy in sight; 30 sail 
of our own ships. 

"Sunday, June 1st, 1794.* Moderate breezes and 
foggy weather. Before two it began to clear up. Saw 
the enemy to leeward, 8 or 9 miles distant, and made 
the signal for that purpose. Soon after the whole fleet 
bore down towards them by signal. The enemy were 
edging away from the wind, and several of their ships 
were changing stations in the line; some of them with- 
out topmasts and topsail yards. About 7, the van of 
our fleet being within three miles of the enemy's centre, 
the heavy ships in the rear a considerable way astern, 
the Admiral made the signal to haul to the wind 
together on the larboard tack, judging we should not be 
able to bring on a general action to-night. At sunset 
the enemy were in a line ahead from N.W. by W. to 
N.E. by E. about four miles distant, and apparently 
steering about two points from the wind. At 1 1 the 
Phaeton passed along the line, and informed the 
different ships that Lord Howe intended carrying single 
reefed T.S.F. sail, jib and M.T.M.S. sail.t After 

* Nautical reckoning in Minders' day was 12 hours ahead ; i.e., 
his June 1 began at noon on May 31. Occurrences following "a.m.," 
happened on June 1 by the Almanac. 

f Letters probably denote single reefed Top Sails, Fore sail, jib 
and Main Topmast and Main Stay sails. 


speaking us he kept on our lee bow; each ship 
carrying a light by signal. A.M., fresh breezes 
and cloudy. At daybreak the enemy not in sight, 
our rear ships a long way astern, their signal made 
to make more sail; when the line became tolerably con- 
nected, the whole fleet bore away and steered N.W. by 
signal. A little before six saw the enemy in the N. 
by E. about 3 leagues. Made the signal to the Admiral 
for that purpose, who by signal ordered the fleet to 
alter the course to starboard together, bearing down 
towards them. About 8, being nearly within shot of 
the enemy's van, hove to for the rear of the fleet to 
come up. Lord Howe made the signal 34, which we 
understood was to pass through the enemy's line, but it 
did not seem to be understood by the rest of the fleet. 
At 8.10 the signal was made to bear up and each 
engage his opponent. We accordingly ran down within 
musket shot of our opponent, and hove to, having 
received several broadsides from their van ships in so 
doing. We now began a severe fire upon our opponent, 
the second ship in the enemy's van, which she returned 
with great briskness. The van ship likewise fired many 
shot at us, his opponent the Caesar keeping to wind- 
ward, not more than two points before our beam in 
general, and of course nearly out of point-blank shot. 
About 8.30 Admiral Graves made his and the Russell's 
signal to engage their opponent; we likewise made 
Captain Molloy's (the Caesar) signal twice to bear 
down and come to close action. About 9 the action 
became general throughout the two fleets, but the 
Tremendous kept out of the line, but on being ordered 
in by signal from the Admiral, she bore down after 
some time. A little before 1 1 our brave Admiral 
(Pasley) lost his leg by an 18-pound shot, which came 
through the barricading of the quarter-deck. It was now 
the heat of the action. The Caesar was not yet come 


close to his opponent, who in consequence of that fired 
all his after guns at us. Our own ship kept up a severe 
fire, and by keeping well astern to let the Caesar take 
her station, their third van ship shot up on our quarter, 
and for some time fired all his fore guns upon us. Our 
shot was directed on three different ships as the guns 
could be got to bear. In ten or fifteen minutes we saw 
the foremast of the third ship go by the board, and the 
second ship's main-top-sail-yard down upon the cap. 
Otherwise the two headmost had not received much 
apparent injury, at least in the rigging. At Hi, however, 
they both bore away and quitted the line, their Admiral 
being obliged to do the same some time before by the 
Queen Charlotte. On seeing the two van ships hauling 
upon the other tack, we conjectured they meant to give 
us their starboard guns. The Caesar's signal was 
immediately made by us to chase the flying ships. On 
his bearing down they were put into confusion, and their 
ship falling down upon them they received several 
broadsides from the Leviathan and us, before they 
could get clear; which when they effected they kept 
away a little, then hauled their wind in the starboard 
tack v and stood away from the opposing fleets. And 
now, being in no condition to follow, we ceased firing; 
the main and foretopmast being gone, every main 
shroud but one on the larboard side cut through, and 
many on the other, besides having the main and fore- 
masts with all the rigging and sails in general much 
injured. We made the Latona's signal to come to our 
assistance, and got entirely out of action. When the 
smoke cleared away, saw eleven ships without a mast 
standing, two of whom proved to be the Marlborough 
and Defence. The rest were enemy's, who, notwith- 
standing their situation kept their colours up, and fired 
at any of our ships that came near them. The 
Leviathan's opponent particularly (the same ship whose 


foremast we shot away) lying perfectly dismasted, the 
Leviathan ran down to him to take possession; but on 
her firing a gun to make him haul down his colours, he 
returned a broadside, and a severe action again com- 
menced between them for nearly half an hour, and we 
could see shot falling on the. water on the opposite side 
of the Frenchman, which appeared to have gone 
through both his sides, the ships being at half a cable's 
length from each other. The Leviathan falling to lee- 
ward could not take the advantage of him her sails 
gave her, and, seeing his obstinacy, left him, but not 
before his fire was nearly silenced. About 11.30 the 
firing was pretty well ceased on all sides, the Queen 
having only a foremast standing was fallen to leeward 
between the two fleets. She stood on the larboard tack 
to fetch our fleet, keeping to the wind in an astonishing 
manner, which we afterwards learnt was effected by 
getting up boat's sails abaft. In this situation every 
ship she passed gave her a broadside or more, which she 
returned with great spirit, keeping up an almost incess- 
ant blaze. After she had stood on past the fleets, she 
wore round and stood back, pursuing the same conduct 
as before, but the French, having collected their best- 
conditioned ships in a body, and being joined by two or 
three other disabled ships, were making off, having 
apparently given up all ideas of saving the rest. On 
this our fleet stood down a little, and the Queen joined. 
We were now employed knotting, splicing, repairing, 
etc., the rigging, cutting away the wrecks of the fore and 
main topmasts, and securing the lower masts. Fortu- 
nately no accident happened with the powder, or with 
guns bursting. We had but three men killed outright 
(a fourth died of his wounds very soon after) and 
about 30 men wounded, amongst whom five lost their 
limbs, and the other leg of one man was so much 
shattered as to be taken off some time after. Our 


brave Admiral was unfortunately in this list, as before 
observed. Captain Smith of the Marines and Mr. 
Chapman, boatswain, were amongst the wounded on the 
second day. Most of our spars were destroyed, and the 
boats severely injured. About noon we had still fine 
weather and the enemy standing away from us, except 
one ship, which did not seem injured, and paraded to 
windward, as if with the intention of giving some of us 
disabled ships a brush. However, we were well pre- 
pared for him, having got tolerably clear of the wreck, 
and he stood back again and out of sight, having 
spoken one of their wrecks. Lord Howe made the 
signal to form the line as most convenient, but it was a 
long time before that movement could be effected." 

Flinders wrote in his journal an estimate of the 
French sailors who were put on board his ship as 
prisoners. It is of some historical value : — 

"Their seamen, if we may judge from our own 
prisoners, are in a very bad state both with respect to 
discipline and knowledge of their profession; both 
which were evidently shown by the condition we saw 
them in on the 31st, many of them being without top- 
masts and topsail yards, and nearly in as bad a state as 
on the 29th after the action. 'Tis true they were rather 
better when we saw them in the morning of June 1st. 
Out of our 198 prisoners there certainly cannot be 
above 15 or 20 seamen, and all together were the 
dirtiest, laziest set of beings conceivable. How an idea 
of liberty, and more so that of fighting for it, should 
enter into their heads, I know not; but by their own con- 
fession it is not their wish and pleasure, but that of those 
who sent them; and so little is it their own that in the 
Brunswick (who was engaged yardarm and yardarm 
with the Vengeur) they could see the French officers 
cutting down the men for deserting their quarters. In- 
deed, in the instances of the Russell and Thunderer 


when close to the Rev olutionn aire , and ours when cut- 
ting through the line, the French do not like to come too 
close. A mile off they will fight desperately." 

Pasley's loss of a leg had a decisive effect upon the 
career of Matthew Flinders. So fine a sailor and so 
tough a fighting man would unquestionably, if not 
partially incapacitated, have had conferred upon him 
during the following years of war commands that would 
have led to his playing a very prominent part in fleet 
operations. As it was, he did not go to sea again, 
though he was promoted through various ranks to that 
of Admiral of the Blue (1801). He became com- 
mander in chief at the Nore in 1798, and at Plymouth 
in 1799. Had he received other sea commands, his 
vigorous, alert young aide-de-camp might have con- 
tinued to serve with him, and would thus have just 
missed the opportunities that came to him in his next 
sphere of employment. What young officer would not 
have eagerly followed a gallant and warm-hearted 
Admiral who had first placed him upon a British 
quarterdeck and had made him an aide-de-camp? As 
it was, the chance that came to Flinders about two 
months after the battle off Brest was one that ministered 
to his decided preference for service in seas where there 
was exploratory work to do. 

Pasley's influence upon the life of Flinders was so 
important, that a characterisation of him by one who 
has perused his letters and journals must be quoted.* 
"It is impossible," writes Miss L. M. Sabine Pasley, 
"not to be impressed from these journals with a strong 

* Memoir of Admiral Sir T. S. Pasley, by Louisa M. Sabine 
Pasley. Sir T. S. Pasley was the grandson of Flinders' Admiral. 
It unfortunately happens that the Journals of "old Sir Thomas" 
which are extant do not cover the period when Flinders acted as 
his aide-de-camp. Miss Sabine Pasley was kind enough to have a 
search made among his papers for any trace of Flinders' relations 
with him, but without success. 


feeling of respect for the writer, so simple-minded, so 
kind-hearted, such a brave old sailor of his time — rough, 
no doubt, in manners and language, but with an earnest 
and genuine piety that shows itself from time to time 
in little ejaculations and prayers, contrasting, it must be 
owned, rather strongly with the terms in which the 
'rascally Yankies' are alluded to in the same pages." 
What Howe thought of him is recorded in a letter 
which he sent to the Rear-Admiral a fortnight after 
the battle, regretting that "the services of a friend he 
so highly esteemed and so gallant an officer, capable of 
such spirited exertions, should be restrained by any 
disaster from the continued exertion of them." There 
is also on record a letter to Pasley from the Prime 
Minister, a model of grace and delicate feeling, in 
which Pitt signified that the King had conferred on him 
a baronetcy "as a mark of the sense which His Majesty 
entertains of the distinguished share which you bore in 
the late successful and glorious operations of His 
Majesty's fleet," and assured him "of the sincere satis- 
faction which I personally feel in executing this com- 

On the south-western coast of Australia, eight years 
later, Flinders remembered his first commander when 
naming the natural features of the country. Cape 
Pasley, at the western tip of the arc of the great Aus- 
tralian Bight, celebrates "the late Admiral Sir Thomas 
Pasley, under whom I had the honour of entering the 
naval service."* On some current maps of Australia 
the cape is spelt "Paisley," an error which obscures the 
interesting biographical fact with which the name is 

It is notewothy that though the career of Flinders 
as a naval officer covers the stormiest period in British 

* Flinders, Voyage to Terra Australis, I., 87. 


naval history, the whole of his personal experience of 
battle was confined to these five days, May 28 to June 1, 
1794. The whole significance of his life lies in the 
work of discovery that he accomplished, and in the con- 
tributions he made to geography and navigation. Yet 
he was destined to feel the effect of the enmity of the 
French in a peculiarly distressing form. His useful 
life was cut short largely by misfortunes that came upon 
him as a consequence of war, and work which he would 
have done to the enhancement of his reputation and the 
advancement of civilisation was thwarted by it. 

Chapter V. 


In order that the importance of the work done by 
Flinders may be adequately appreciated, it is necessary 
to understand the state of information concerning Aus- 
tralian geography before the time of his discoveries. 
Not only did he complete the main outlines of the map 
of the continent, but he filled in many details in parts 
that had been traversed by his predecessors. This is a 
convenient point whereat to interrupt the narrative of 
his life with a brief sketch of what those predecessors 
had done, and of the curiously haphazard mode in 
which a partial knowledge of this fifth division of the 
globe had been pieced together. 

There never, was, until Flinders applied himself to 
the task, any deliberately-planned, systematic, persis- 
tent exploration of any portion of the Australian coast. 
The continent grew on the map of the world gradually, 
slowly, almost accidentally. It emerged out of the un- 
known, like some vast mythical monster heaving its 
large shoulders dank and dripping from the unfathomed 
sea, and metamorphosed by a kiss from the lips of 
knowledge into a being fair to look upon and rich in 
kindly favours. It took two centuries and a half for 
civilised mankind to know Australia, even in form, 
from the time when it was clearly understood that there 
was such a country, until at length it was mapped, 
measured and circumnavigated. Before this process 
began, there was a dialectical stage, when it was hotly 
contested whether there could possibly be upon the globe 
lands antipodean to Europe; and both earlier and later 



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there were conjectural stages when makers of maps, 
having no certain data, but feeling sure that the blank 
southern hemisphere ought to be filled up somehow, 
exercised a vagrant fancy and satisfied a long-felt want 
by decorating their drawings with representations of a 
Terra Incognita having not even a casual resemblance 
to the reality. 

The process presents few points of resemblance to 
that by which the discovery of America was accom- 
plished. Almost as soon as Europe came into touch 
with the western hemisphere, discovery was pursued 
with unflagging energy, until its whole extent and con- 
tour were substantially known. Within fifty years 
after Columbus led the way across the Atlantic (1492), 
North and South America were laid down with some- 
thing approaching precision; and Gerard Mercator's 
map of 1541 presented the greater part of the continent 
with the name fairly inscribed upon it. There were, it 
is true, some errors and some gaps, especially on the 
west coast, which left work for navigators to do. But 
the essential point is that in less than half a century 
Europe had practically comprehended America as an 
addition to the known world. There was but a brief 
twilight interval between nescience and knowledge. 
How different was the case with Australia! Three 
hundred years after the date of Columbus' first voyage, 
the mere outline of this continent had not been wholly 

During the middle ages, when ingenious men 
exercised infinite subtlety in speculation, and wrote large 
Latin folios to prove each other wrong in matters about 
which neither party knew anything at all, there was 
much dissertation about the possibility of antipodes. 
Bishops and saints waxed eloquent upon the theme. The 
difficulty of conceiving of lands where people walked 
about with their heads hanging downwards, and their 


feet exactly opposite to those of Europeans, was too 
much for some of the scribes who debated "about it 
and about." The Greek, Cosmas Indicopleustes, de- 
nounced the "old wives' fable of Antipodes," and asked 
how rain could be said to "fall," as in the Scriptures, 
in regions where it would have to "come up."* Some 
would have it that a belief in Antipodes was heretical. 
But Isidore of Seville, in his Liber de Natura Rerum, 
Basil of Caesarea, Ambrose of Milan, and Vergil 
Bishop of Salzburg, an Irish saint, declined to regard 
the question as a closed one. "Nam partes eius (i.e. of 
the earth) quatuor sunt," argued Isidore. Curiously 
enough, the copy of the works of the Saint of Seville 
used by the author (published at Rome in 1803), 
was salvaged from a wreck which occurred on the Aus- 
tralian coast many years ago. It is stained with sea- 
water, and emits the musty smell which tells of immer- 
sion. An inscription inside the cover relates the cir- 
cumstance of the wreck. Who possessed the book one 
does not know; some travelling scholar may have 
perused it during the long voyage from Europe; and 
one fancies him, as the ship bumped upon the rocks, 
exclaiming "Yes, Isidore was right, there are 

From about the fourth quarter of the sixteenth cen- 
tury until the date of Abel Tasman's voyages, 1642-4, 
there was a period of vague speculation about a sup- 
posed great southern continent. The maps of the time 
indicate the total lack of accurate information at the 
disposal of their compilers. There was no general 
agreement as to what this region was like in its outlines, 
proportions, or situation. Some cartographers, as 
Peter Plancius (1594) and Hondius (1595), trailed 

* The Christian Topography of Cosmas, translated by J. W. 
McCrindle, p. 17 (Hakluyt Society). 


a wavy line across the foot of their representations of 
the globe, inscribed Terra Australis upon it, and by a 
fine stroke of invention gave an admirable aspect of 
finish and symmetry to the form of the world. The 
London map of 1578, issued with George Best's Dis- 
course of the Late Voyages of Discoverie, barricaded 
the south pole with a Terra Australis not unlike the 
design of a switch-back railway. Molyneux' remark- 
able map, circa 1590, dropped the vast imaginary conti- 
nent, and displayed a small tongue of land in about the 
region where the real Australia is; suggesting that some 
voyager had been blown out of his course, had come 
upon a part of the western division of the continent, and 
had jotted down a memorandum of its appearance upon 
his chart. It looks like a sincere attempt to tell a bit 
of the truth. But speaking generally, the Terra Aus- 
tralis of the old cartographers was a gigantic antipodean 
imposture, a mere piece of map-makers' furniture, put 
in to fill up the gaping space at the south end of the 

A few minutes devoted to the study of a map of the 
Indian Ocean, including the Cape of Good Hope and 
the west coast of Australia — especially one indicating 
the course of currents — will show how natural it was 
that Portuguese and Dutch ships engaged in the spice 
trade should occasionally have found themselves in 
proximity to the real Terra Australis. It will also ex- 
plain more clearly than a page of type could do, why 
the western and north-western coasts were known so 
early, whilst the eastern and southern shores remained 
undelineated until James Cook and Matthew Flinders 
sailed along them. 

A change of the route pursued by the Dutch on 
their voyages to the East Indies had already conduced 
to an acquaintance with the Australian coast. Origin- 


ally, after rounding the Cape, their ships had sailed 
north-east to Madagascar, and had thence struck across 
the Indian Ocean to Java, or to Ceylon. As long as 
this course was followed, there was little prospect of 
sighting the great continent which lay about three 
thousand miles east of their habitual track. But this 
route, though from the map it appeared to be the most 
direct, was the longest in duration that they could take. 
It brought them into the region of light winds and 
tedious tropical calms ; so that very often a vessel would 
lie for weeks "as idle as a painted ship upon a painted 
ocean," and would occupy over a year upon the outward 
voyage. In 1611, however, one of their commanders 
discovered that if, after leaving the Cape, a ship ran 
not north-east, but due east for about three thousand 
miles, she would be assisted by the winds, not baffled by 
calms. Henrick Brouwer, who made the experiment, 
arrived in Java seven months after leaving Holland, 
whereas some ships had been known to be as long as 
eighteen months at sea. The directors of the Dutch 
East India Company, recognising the importance of the 
discovery, ordered their commanders to follow the 
easterly route from the Cape in future, and offered 
prizes to those who completed the voyage in less than 
nine months. The result was that the Dutch skippers 
became exceedingly anxious to make the very utmost of 
the favourable winds, which carried them eastward in 
the direction of the western coasts of Australia. 

Thus it happened that in 1616 the Eendragt 
stumbled on Australia opposite Shark's Bay. Her cap- 
tain, Dirk Hartog, landed on the long island which lies 
as a natural breakwater between the bay and the ocean, 
and erected a metal plate to record his visit; and Dirk 
Hartog Island is the name it bears to this day. The 
plate remained till 1697, when another Dutchman, 
Vlaming, substituted a new one for it; and Vlaming's 


plate, in turn, remained till 1817, when the French navi- 
gator, Freycinet, took it and sent it to Paris. 

After Hartog reported his discovery, the Dutch 
directors ordered their ships' captains to run east from 
the Cape till they sighted the land. This would enable 
them to verify their whereabouts ; for in those days the 
means of reckoning postioris at sea were so imperfect 
that navigators groped about the oceans of the globe 
almost as if they were sailing in darkness. But here 
was a means of verifying a ship's position after her 
long run across from the Cape, and if she found Dirk 
Hartog Island, she could safely thence make her way 
north to Java. 

But ships did not always sight the Australian coast 
at the same point. Hence it came about that in 1619 
J. de Edel "accidentally fell in with" the coast at the 
back of the Abrolhos. Pieter Nuyts, in 1627, "acci- 
dentally discovered" a long reach of the south coast. 
Similarly, in 1628, the Vianen was "accidentally," as 
the narrative says, driven on to the north-west coast, 
and her commander, De Wit, gave his name to 
about 200 miles of it. In 1629 the Dutch ship 
Batavia was separated in a storm from a merchant 
fleet of eleven sail, and ran upon the Abrolhos Reef. 
The captain, Francis Pelsart, who was lying sick in his 
cabin at the time of the misadventure, "called up the 
master and charged him with the loss of the ship, who 
excused himself by saying he had taken all the care he 
could ; and that having discerned the froth at a distance 
he asked the steersman what he thought of it, who told 
him that the sea appeared white by its reflecting the rays 
of the moon. The captain then asked him what was to 
be done, and in what part of the world he thought they 
were. The master replied that God only knew that; 
and that the ship was on a bank hitherto undiscovered." 
The story of Pelsart's adventure was recorded, and 


the part of the coast which he saw was embodied on a 
globe published in 1700. 

To the accidental discoveries must be added those 
made by the Dutch prompted by curiosity as to the 
possibility of drawing profit from the lands to the south 
of their great East India possessions. Thus the Dutch 
yacht Duyfhen, sent in 1605 to examine the Papuan 
islands, sailed along the southern side of Torres Strait, 
found Cape York, and believed it to be part of New 
Guinea. The great discovery voyages of Tasman, 
1643 and 1644, were planned in pursuit of the same 
policy. He was directed to find out what the southern 
portion of the world was like, "whether it be land or 
sea, or icebergs, whatever God has ordained to be 

In 1606 the Spaniard, Torres, also probably saw 
Cape York, and sailed through the strait which bears 
his name. He had accompanied Quiros across the 
Pacific, but had separated from his commander at the 
New Hebrides, and continued his voyage westward, 
whilst Quiros sailed to South America. 

It is needless for present purposes to catalogue the 
various voyages made by the Dutch, or to examine 
claims which have been preferred on account of other 
discoveries. It may, however, be observed that there 
are three well defined periods of Australian maritime 
discovery, and that they relate to three separate zones 
of operation. 

First, there was the period with which the Dutch 
were chiefly concerned. The west and north-west coasts 
received the greater part of their attention, though the 
voyage of Tasman to the island now bearing his name 
was a variation from their habitual sphere. The visits 
of the Englishman, Dampier, to Western Australia are 
comprehended within this period. 


The second period belongs to the eighteenth cen- 
tury, and its hero was James Cook. He sailed up the 
whole of the east coast in 1770, from Point Hicks, near 
the Victorian border, to Cape York at the northern tip 
of the continent, and accomplished a larger harvest of 
discovery than has ever fallen to the fortune of any 
other navigator in a single voyage. To this period also 
belongs Captain George Vancouver, who in 1791, on 
his way to north-western America from the Cape of 
Good Hope, came upon the south-western corner of 
Australia and discovered King George's Sound. In the 
following year the French Admiral, Dentrecasteaux, 
despatched in search of the missing expedition of 
Laperouse, also made the south-west corner of the conti- 
nent, and followed the coast of the Great Australian 
Bight for some hundreds of miles. His researches in 
southern Tasmania were likewise of much importance. 

The third period is principally that of Flinders, 
commencing shortly before the dawn of the nineteenth 
century, and practically completing the maritime ex- 
ploration of the continent. 

A map contained in John Pinkerton's Modern 
Geography shows at a glance the state of knowledge 
about Australia at the date of publication, 1802. 
Flinders had by that time completed his explorations, 
but his work was not yet published. The map deline- 
ates the contour of the continent on the east, west, and 
north sides, with as much accuracy as was possible, and, 
though it is defective in details, presents generally a 
fair idea of the country's shape. But the line along the 
south coast represents a total lack of information as to 
the outline of the land. Pinkerton, indeed, though he 
was a leading English authority on geography when his 
book was published, had not embodied in his map some 
results that were then available. 


The testimony of the map may be augmented by a 
reference to what geographical writers understood about 
Australia before the time of Flinders. 

Though Cook had discovered the east coast, and 
named it New South Wales, it was not definitely known 
whether this extensive stretch of country was separate 
from the western "New Holland" which the Dutch had 
named, or whether the two were the extremities of one 
vast tract of land. Geographical opinion rather inclined 
to the view that ultimately a strait would be found divid- 
ing the region into islands. This idea is mentioned by 
Pinkerton. Under the heading "New Holland" he 
wrote:* "Some suppose that this extensive region, when 
more thoroughly investigated, will be found to consist 
of two or three vast islands intersected by narrow seas, 
an idea which probably arises from the discovery that 
New Zealand consists of two islands, and that other 
straits have been found to divide lands in this quarter 
formerly supposed to be continuous." The discovery 
that Bass Strait divided Australia from Tasmania was 
probably in Pinkerton's mind; he mentions it in his text 
(quoting Flinders), though his map does not indicate 
the Strait's existence. He also mentions "a vast bay 
with an isle," possibly Kangaroo Island. 

Perhaps it was not unnatural that competent opinion 
should have favoured the idea that there were several 
large islands, rather than one immense continent stretch- 
ing into thirty degrees of latitude and forty-five of 
longitude. The human mind is not generally disposed 
to grasp very big things all at once. Indeed, in the light 
of fuller knowledge, one is disposed to admire the 
caution of these geographers, whose beliefs were care- 
fully reasoned but erroneous, in face of, for instance, 
such a wild ebullition of venturesome theory as that attri- 

* Modem Geography, II., 588. 


buted to an aforetime Gottingen professor,* who con- 
sidered that not only was Australia one country, but that 
it made its appearance upon this planet in a peculiarly 
sudden fashion. His opinion was that "the vast conti- 
nent of Australia was originally a comet, which happen- 
ing to fall within the limits of the earth's attraction, 
alighted at length upon its surface." "Alighted at 
length" is a mild term, suggestive of a nervous lady 
emerging from a tram-car in a crowded street. 
"Splashed," would probably convey a more vigorous 

The belief that a strait would be found completely 
dividing New Holland was a general one, as is shown 
by several contemporary writings. Thus James Grant 
in his Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery, (1803), 
expressing his regret that his orders did not permit him 
to take his ship, the Lady Nelson, northward from Port 
Jackson in 1801, speculated that "we might also be- 
times have ascertained if the Gulf of Carpentaria had 
any inlet to Bass Straits, and if it be discovered secure 
more quickly to Great Britain the right of lands which 
some of our enterprising neighbours might probably dis- 
pute with us. And this I trust will not be thought 
chimerical when it was not known whether other Straits 
did not exist as well as that dividing New Holland from 
Van Diemen's Land." Again, the Institute of France 
in preparing instructions for the voyage of exploration 
commanded by Nicolas Baudin (1800) directed a 
search to be made for a strait which it was supposed 
divided Australia "into two great and nearly equal 

Another interesting geographical problem to be 
determined, was whether a great river system drained 
any part of the Australian continent. In the existing 

* Professor Blumenbach according to Lang, Historical Account 
of New South Wales (1837), II., 142. 


state of knowledge the country presented an aspect in 
regard to fluvial features wholly different from any 
other portion of the world. No river of considerable 
importance had been found. Students of geography 
could hardly conceive that there should be so large an 
area of land lacking outlets to the sea ; and as none had 
been found in the parts investigated so far, it was 
believed that the exploration of the south coast would 
reveal large streams flowing from the interior. Some 
had speculated that within the country there was a great 
inland sea, and if so there would probably be rivers 
flowing from it to the ocean. 

A third main subject for elucidation when Flinders 
entered upon this work, was whether the country known 
as Van Diemen's Land was part of the continent, or 
was divided from it by a strait not yet discovered. 
Captain Cook entertained the opinion that a strait 
existed. On his voyage in the Endeavour in 1770, he 
was "doubtful whether they are one land or no." But 
when near the north-eastern corner of Van Diemen's 
Land, he had been twenty months at sea, and his 
supplies had become depleted. He did not deem it 
advisable to sail west and settle the question forthwith, 
but, running up the eastern coast of New Holland, 
achieved discoveries certainly great enough for one 
voyage. He retained the point in his mind, however, 
and would have determined it on his second voyage in 
1772-4 had he not paid heed to information given by 
Tobias Furneaux. The Adventure, commanded by 
Furneaux, had been separated from the Resolution on 
the voyage to New Zealand, and had cruised for some 
days in the neighbourhood of the eastern entrance to 
Bass Strait. But Furneaux convinced himself that no 
strait existed, and reported to that effect when he re- 
joined Cook in Queen Charlotte's Sound. Cook was 
not quite convinced by the statement of his officer; but 


contrary winds made a return to the latitude of the 
supposed strait difficult, and Cook though "half inclined 
to go over to Van Diemen's Land and settle the question 
of its being part of New Holland" decided to proceed 
westward. As will be seen hereafter, Flinders helped 
to show that the passage existed. 

There were also many smaller points requiring in- 
vestigation. Cook in running along the east coast had 
passed several portions in the night, or at such a dis- 
tance in the daytime as to render his representation of 
the coastline doubtful. Some groups of islands also 
required to be accurately charted. Indeed, it may be 
said that there was no portion of the world where, at 
this period, there was so much and such valuable work 
to be done by a competent and keen marine explorer, as 
in Australia. 

A passage in a manuscript by Flinders may be quoted 
to supplement what has been written above, as it 
indicates the kind of speculations that were current in 
the conversation of students of geography.* 

"The interior of this new region, in extent nearly 
equal to all Europe, strongly excited the curiosity of 
geographers and naturalists; and the more so as, ten 
years after the establishment of a British Colony at Port 
Jackson on the east coast, and the repeated effort of 
some enterprising individuals, no part of it beyond 30 
leagues from the coast had been seen by an European. 
Various conjectures were entertained upon the probable 
consistence of this extensive space. Was it a vast 
desert? Was it occupied by an immense lake — a second 
Caspian Sea, or by a Mediterranean to which existed a 
navigable entrance in some part of the coasts hitherto 
unexplored? or was not this new continent rather 
divided into two or more islands by straits communi- 

* Called an "Abridged Narrative" — Flinders' Papers. 


eating from the unknown parts of the south to the im- 
perfectly examined north-west coast or to the Gulf of 
Carpentaria, or to both? Such were the questions that 
excited the interest and divided the opinion of 

Apart from particular directions in which enquiry 
needed to be pursued, it was felt in England that the 
only nation which had founded a settlement on the Aus- 
tralian continent was under an obligation to complete 
the exploration of the country. The French had 
already sent out two scientific expeditions with instruc- 
tions to examine the unknown southern coasts; and if 
shipwreck had not destroyed the first, and want of fresh 
water diverted the second, the credit of finishing the out- 
line of the map of Australia would have been earned for 
France. "Many circumstances, indeed," wrote 
Flinders, "united to render the south coast of Terra 
Australis one of the most interesting parts of the globe 
to which discovery could be directed at the beginning of 
the nineteenth century. Its investigation had formed a 
part of the instructions to the unfortunate French navi- 
gator, Laperouse, and afterwards of those to his 
countryman Dentrecasteaux; and it was not without 
some reason attributed to England as a reproach that 
an imaginary line of more than two hundred and fifty 
leagues' extent in the vicinity of one of her colonies 
should have been so long suffered to remain traced upon 
the charts under the title of Unknown Coast. This 
comported ill with her reputation as the first of mari- 
time powers." 

We shall see how predominant was the share of 
Flinders in the settlement of these problems, the filling 
up of these gaps. 

Chapter VI. 

Apart from Admiral Pasley, two officers who partici- 
pated in Lord Howe's victory on "the glorious First of 
June," had an important influence upon the later career 
of Flinders. The first of these, Captain John Hunter, 
had served on the flagship Queen Charlotte. The 
second, Henry Waterhouse, had been fifth lieutenant 
on the Bellerophon. Flinders was under the orders of 
both of them on his next voyage. 

Hunter had accompanied the first Governor of New 
South Wales on the Sirius, when a British colony was 
founded there in 1788, and was commissioned by the 
Crown to assume the duties of Lieutenant-Governor in 
case of Phillip's death. When the office fell vacant in 
1793, Hunter applied for appointment. He secured 
the cordial support of Howe, and Sir Roger Curtis of 
the Queen Charlotte exerted his influence by recommend- 
ing him as one whose selection "would be a blessing to 
the colony" on account of his incorruptible integrity, 
unceasing zeal, thorough knowledge of the country, and 
steady judgment. He was appointed Governor in 
February, 1794, and in March of the same year H.M.S. 
Reliance, with the tender Supply, were commissioned to 
convey him to Sydney. 

Henry Waterhouse was chosen to command the 
Reliance, under Hunter, at that officer's request. He 
expressed to the Secretary of State a wish that the 
appointment might be conferred upon an officer to 
whom it might be a step in advancement, rather than 
upon one who had already attained the rank of com- 
mander; and he recommended Waterhouse as one who, 



though a young man and not an old officer, was "the 
only remaining lieutenant of the Sirius, formerly under 
my command; and having had the principal part of 
his nautical education from me, I can with confidence 
say that he is well qualified for the charge." 

It is probable that Flinders heard of the expedition 
from his Bellerophon shipmate, Waterhouse, who by the 
end of July was under orders to sail as second captain 
of the Reliance. Certainly the opportunity of making 
another voyage to Australian waters, wherein, as he 
knew, so much work lay awaiting an officer keen for 
discovery, coincided with his own inclinations. He 
wrote that he was led by his passion for exploring new 
countries to embrace the opportunity of going out upon 
a station which of all others presented the most ample 
field for his favourite pursuit. 

The sailing was delayed for six months, and in the 
interval young Flinders was able to visit his home in 
Lincolnshire. Whatever opposition there may have 
been to his choice of the sea as a profession before 1790, 
we may be certain that the Donington surgeon was not a 
little proud of his eldest son when he returned after a 
wonderful voyage to the isles of the Pacific and the 
Caribbean Sea, and after participation in the recent 
great naval fight which had thrilled the heart of Eng- 
land with exultation and pride. The boy who had left 
his father's house four years before as an anxious 
aspirant for the King's uniform now returned a 
bronzed seaman on the verge of manhood. His intelli- 
gence and zeal as a junior officer had won him the es- 
teem and confidence of distinguished commanders. 
He had looked upon the strangeness and beauty of the 
world in its most remote and least-known quarters, had 
witnessed fights with savages, threaded unmapped 
straits, and had, to crown his youthful achievements, 
striven amidst the wrack and thunder of grim-visaged 


war. We may picture his welcome: the strong grasp 
of his father's hand, the crowding enthusiasm of his 
brother and sisters fondly glorying in their hero's 
prowess. The warnings of uncle John were all for- 
gotten now. When the midshipman's younger brother, 
Samuel Ward Flinders, desired to go to sea with him, 
he was not restrained, and, in fact, accompanied him as 
a volunteer on the Reliance when at length she sailed. 

Hunter took not merely an official but a deep and 
discerning interest in the colonisation of Australia. He 
foresaw its immense possibilities, encouraged its ex- 
ploration, promoted the breeding of stock and the 
cultivation of crops, and had a wise concern for such 
strategic advantages as would tend to secure it for 
British occupation. He perceived the great importance 
of the Cape of Good Hope from the point of view of 
Australian security; and a letter which he wrote to an 
official of the Admiralty while awaiting sailing orders 
for the Reliance (January 25, 1795), is perhaps the 
first instance of official recognition of Australia's vital 
interest in the ownership of that post. There was 
cause for concern. The raw and ill-disciplined levies 
of the French, having at the outbreak of the Revolution- 
ary wars most unexpectedly turned back the invading 
armies of Austria and Prussia, and having, after cam- 
paigns full of dramatic changes, shaken off the peril of 
the crushing of the fatherland by a huge European com- 
bination, were now waging an offensive war in Holland. 
Pichegru, the French commander, though not a soldier 
by training, secured astonishing successes, and, in the 
thick of a winter of exceptional severity, led his ragged 
and ill-fed army on to victory after victory, until the 
greater part of Holland lay conquered within his grip. 
In January he entered Amsterdam. There was a 
strong element of Republican feeling among the Dutch, 
and an alliance with France was demanded. 


When this condition of things was reported in Eng- 
land, Hunter was alarmed for the safety of the colony 
which he was about to govern. The Cape of Good 
Hope was a Dutch possession. Holland was now under 
the domination of France. Might not events bring 
about the establishment of French power at the Cape? 
"I cannot help feeling much concerned at the rapid pro- 
gress of the French in Holland," he wrote, "and I own 
shall not be surprised if in consequence of their success 
in that country they make a sudden dash at the Cape of 
Good Hope, if we do not anticipate them in such an 
attempt. They are so very active a people that it will 
be done before we know anything of it, and I think it 
a post of too much importance to be neglected by them. 
I hope earnestly, therefore, that it will be prevented by 
our sending a squadron and some troops as early as 
possible. If the Republicans once get a footing there, 
we shall probably find it difficult to dislodge them. 
Such a circumstance would be a sad stroke for our young 

The course which Hunter then advised was that 
which the British Government followed, though more 
because the Cape was the "half way house" to India, 
than for the protection of Australian interests. An 
expedition was despatched later in the year to protect 
the Cape against French occupation, and in September 
the colony, by order of the Stadtholder of Holland, 
accepted British protection. 

The Reliance and the Supply left Plymouth on 
February 15th, 1795, amongst a very large company 
of merchantmen and ships of the navy convoyed by the 
Channel Fleet under Lord Howe, which guarded them 
till they were beyond the range of possible French 
attacks and then sailed back to port. 

From Teneriffe, which Hunter reached on March 
6th, he wrote a despatch to the Government stating his 


intention to sail, not to the Cape of Good Hope, but 
to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and thence to New South 
Wales. His avoidance of the more direct route was 
due to the causes explained above. u In the present 
uncertain state of things between the French and 
Dutch," he had written before sailing, "it will be 
dangerous for me to attempt touching at the Cape on 
my way out;" and writing from Rio de Janeiro in May 
he explained that he did not "conceive it safe from the 
uncertain state of the Dutch settlements in India to take 
the Cape of Good Hope in my way to Port Jackson, 
lest the French, following up their late successes in 
Holland, should have been active enough to make an 
early attack on that very important post." In a des- 
patch to the Duke of Portland he commented strongly 
on the same circumstance, expressing the opinion that 
"if the French should be able to possess themselves of 
that settlement it will be rather unfortunate for our 
distant colony." 

Hunter had to complain of discourteous treatment 
received from the Portuguese Viceroy, who kept him 
waiting six days before according an interview, and then 
fixed an appointment for seven o'clock in the evening, 
when it was quite dark. "As His Excellency was 
acquainted with the position I held, I confess I expected 
a different reception," wrote Hunter; and he was so 
much vexed that he did not again set foot ashore while 
his ships lay in port. The incident, though not import- 
ant in itself, serves, in conjunction with Hunter's avoid- 
ance of the Cape, to illustrate the rather limp condition 
of British prestige abroad at about the time when her 
authority was being established in Australia. With her 
army defeated in the Low Countries, her ships deem- 
ing it prudent to keep clear of the Cape that formed 
the key to her eastern and southern possessions, and her 
King's representative subjected to a studied slight from 


a Portuguese official in Brazil, she hardly appeared, just 
then, to be the nation that would soon shatter the naval 
power of France, demolish the greatest soldier of 
modern times, and, before her sword was sheathed, float 
her victorious flag in every continent, in every sea, and 
over people of every race and colour. 

On this voyage, as on all occasions, Flinders kept 
a careful record of his own observations. Sixteen 
years later, a dispute arose, interesting to navigators, as 
to the precise location of Cape Frio in Brazil. An 
American had pointed out an error in European charts. 
It was a matter of some importance, because ships 
bound for Rio de Janeiro necessarily rounded Cape 
Frio, and the error was sufficiently serious to cause no 
small risk if vessels trusted to the received reckoning. 
The Naval Chronicle devoted some attention to the 
point; and to it Flinders sent a communication stating 
that on consulting his nautical records he found that on 
May 2nd, 1795, he made an observation, reduced from 
the preceding noon, calculating the position of the Cape 
to be latitude 22° 53' south, longitude 41° 43' west. 
His memorandum was printed over a facsimile of his 
signature as that of "a distinguished navigator," and 
was hailed as "a valuable contribution towards clearing 
up the difficulty concerning the geographical position of 
that important headland."* For us the incident serves 
as an indication of Flinders' diligence and carefulness in 
the study of navigation. He was but a midshipman at 
the time, and it will be noticed that it was a personal 
observation which he was able to quote, not one taken 
as part of his duty as an officer. 

The Reliance arrived at Port Jackson on September 
7th, and in the following month Flinders, with a com- 
panion of whom it is time to speak, commenced the 
series of explorations which made his fame. 

* N.C., Vol. XXVI. 


This companion was George Bass, a Lincolnshire 
man like Flinders himself, born at Aswarby near Slea- 
ford. He was a farmer's son, but his father died when 
he was quite a child, and his mother moved to Boston. 
She managed out of her widow's resources to give her 
son an excellent education, and designed that he should 
enter the medical profession. In due course he was 
apprenticed to a Boston surgeon, Mr. Francis — a com- 
mon mode of securing training in medicine at that 
period. He "walked" the Boston hospital for a finish- 
ing course of instruction, and won his surgeon's diploma 
with marked credit. 

Bass had from his early years shown a desire to go 
to sea. His mother was able to buy for him a share 
in a merchant ship; but this was wrecked, whereupon, 
not cured of his love of the ocean, he entered the navy 
as a surgeon. It was in that capacity that he sailed in 
the Reliance. He was then, in 1795, thirty-two years 
of age. 

All the records of Bass, both the personal observa- 
tions of those who came in contact with him, and the tale 
of his own deeds, leave the impression that he was a 
very remarkable man. He was six feet in height, dark- 
complexioned, handsome in countenance, keen in ex- 
pression, vigorous, strong, and enterprising. His 
father-in-law spoke of his "very penetrating counte- 
nance." Flinders called him "the penetrating Bass." 
Governor Hunter, in official despatches, said he was "a 
young man of a well-informed mind and an active dis- 
position," and one who was "of much ability in various 
ways out of the line of his profession." He was gifted 
with a mind capable of intense application to any task 
that he took in hand. Upon his firm courage, resource- 
fulness and strength of purpose, difficulties and dangers 
acted merely as the whetstone to the finely tempered 
blade. He undertook hazardous enterprises from the 


sheer love of doing hard things which were worth doing. 
"He was one," wrote Flinders, "whose ardour for dis- 
covery was not to be repressed by any obstacle nor 
deterred by danger." He seemed to care nothing for 
rewards, and was not hungry for honours. The 
pleasure of doing was to him its own recompense. That 
"penetrating countenance" indexed a brain as direct as 
a drill, and as inflexible. A loyal and affectionate com- 
rade, preferring to enter upon a task with his chosen 
mate, he nevertheless could not wait inactive if official 
duties prevented co-operation, but would set out alone 
on any piece of work on which he had set his heart. The 
portrait of Bass which we possess conveys an impression 
of alert and vigorous intelligence, of genial temper and 
hearty relish. It is the picture of a man who was 
abundantly alive in every nerve. 

Flinders and Bass, being both Lincolnshire men, 
born within a few miles of each other, naturally be- 
came very friendly on the long voyage to Australia. It 
was said of two other friends, who achieved great dis- 
tinction in the sphere of art, that when they first met 
in early manhood they "ran together like two drops of 
mercury," so completely coincident were their inclina- 
tions. So it was in this instance. Two men more pre- 
disposed to formulate plans for exploration could not 
have been thrown together. A passion for maritime 
discovery was common to both of them. Flinders, 
from his study of charts and books of voyages, had a 
sound knowledge of the field of work that lay open, and 
Bass's keen mind eagerly grasped the plans explained 
to him. It would not have taken the surgeon and the 
midshipman long to find that their ambitions were com- 
pletely in tune on this inviting subject. "With this 
friend," Flinders wrote, "a determination was found 
of completing the examination of the east coast of New 
South Wales by all such opportunities as the duty of 


the ship and procurable means could admit. Projects 
of this nature, when originating in the minds of young 
men, are usually termed romantic; and so far from any 
good being anticipated, even prudence and friendship 
join in discouraging, if not in opposing them. Thus 
it was in the present case." The significance of that 
passage is that the two friends made for themselves the 
opportunities by which they won fame and rendered 
service. They did not wait on Fortune ; they forced her 
hand. They showed by what they did on their own 
initiative, with very limited resources, that they were 
the right men to be entrusted with work of larger scope. 

Nevertheless it is unwarrantable to assume that 
Governor Hunter discountenanced their earliest efforts. 
It was presumably on the passage quoted above that the 
author of a chapter in the most elaborate modern naval 
history founded the assertion that "the plans of the 
young discoverers were discouraged by the authorities. 
They, however, had resolution and perseverance. All 
official help and countenance were withheld."* But 
Flinders does not say that "the authorities" discouraged 
the effort. "Prudence and friendship" did. They 
were not yet tried men in such hazardous enterprises; 
the settlement possessed scarcely any resources for ex- 
ploratory work, and the dangers were unknown. Official 
countenance implies official responsibility, and there was 
not yet sufficient reason for setting the Governor's seal 
on the adventurous experiments of two young and un- 
tried though estimable men. When they had shown their 
quality, Hunter gave them every assistance and en- 
couragement in his power, and proved himself a good 
friend to them. In the circumstances, "prudence 
and friendship" are hardly to be blamed for a counsel 
of caution. The remark of Flinders is not to be 

* Sir Clements Markham in The Royal Navy, a History, IV., 565. 


interpreted to mean that the Governor put hindrances 
in their way. They were under his orders, and his 
positive discountenance would have been effectual to 
block their efforts. They could not even have obtained 
leave of absence without his approval. But John 
Hunter was not the man to prevent them from putting 
their powers to the test. 

No sooner had the two friends reached Sydney than 
they began to look about them for means to undertake 
the exploratory work upon which their minds were bent. 
Bass had brought out with him from England a small 
boat, only eight feet long, with a five foot beam, named 
by him the Tom Thumb on account of her size.* In 
this diminutive craft the two friends made preparations 
for setting out along the coast. Taking with them 
only one boy, named Martin, with provisions 
and ammunition for a very short trip, they 
sailed the Tom Thumb out of Port Jackson 
and made southward to Botany Bay, which they 
entered. They pushed up George's River, which 
had been only partly explored, and pursued their in- 
vestigation of its winding course for twenty miles 
beyond the former limit of survey. Upon their return 
they presented to Hunter a report concerning the quality 
of the land seen on the borders of the river, together 
with a sketch map. The Governor was induced from 
what they told him to examine the country him- 
self; and the result was that he founded the settlement 
of Bankstown, which still remains, and boasts the dis- 
tinction of being one of the pioneer towns of Australia. 

* Flinders' Papers; "Brief Memoir," mss. p. 5. Some have 
supposed the measurements given in Flinders' published work to 
have been a misprint, the size of the boat being so absurdly small. 
But Flinders' Journal is quite clear on the point: "We turned our 
eyes towards a little boat of about 8 feet keel and 5 feet beam which 
had been brought out by Mr. Bass and others in the Reliance, and 
from its size had obtained the name of Tom Thumb." 


The adventurers were delayed from the further 
pursuit of their ambition by ship's duties. The 
Reliance was ordered to convey to Norfolk Island an 
officer of the New South Wales Corps required for 
duty there, as well as the Judge Advocate. She sailed 
in January, 1796. After her return in March, Bass 
and Flinders, being free again, lost no time in 
fitting out for a second cruise. Their object this 
time was to search for a large river, said to fall into the 
sea to the south of Botany Bay, which was not marked 
on Cook's chart. As before, the crew consisted only 
of themselves and the boy. 

It has always been believed that the boat in which 
this second cruise was made, was the same Tom 
Thumb as that which carried the two young explorers 
to George's River; indeed, Flinders himself, in his 
Voyage to Terra Australis, Vol. I., p. xcvii., says that 
"Mr. Bass and myself went again in Tom Thumb." 
But in his unpublished Journal there is a passage that 
suggests a doubt as to whether, when he wrote his book, 
over a decade later, he had not forgotten that a second 
boat was obtained for the second adventure. He may 
not have considered the circumstance important enough 
to mention. At all events in the Journal, he writes: 
"As Tom Thumb had performed so well before, the 
same boat's crew had little hesitation in embarking in 
another boat of nearly the same size, which had been 
since built at Port Jackson." There was, it is evident, 
a second boat, no larger than the first, or that fact would 
have been mentioned, and she was also known as the 
Tom Thumb. She was Tom Thumb the Second. 
Only by that assumption can we reconcile the Voyage 
statement with the Journal, which, having been written 
up at the time, is an authoritative source of information. 

They left Sydney on March 25th, intending to stand 
off to sea till evening, when it was expected that the 


breeze would bring them to the coast. But they drifted 
on a strong current six or seven miles southward, and 
being unable to land, passed the night in the boat. Next 
day, being in want of water, but unable to bring the 
Tom Thumb to a safe landing place, Bass swam ashore. 
While the filled cask was being got off a wave carried 
the boat shoreward and beached her, leaving the three 
on the beach with their clothes drenched, their 
provisions partly spoiled, and their arms and ammuni- 
tion thoroughly wet. The emptying and launching of 
the boat on a surfy shore, and the replacing of the 
stores and cask in her, were managed with some diffi- 
culty; and they ran for two islands for shelter late in 
the afternoon. Finding a landing to be dangerous they 
again spent the night, cramped, damp, and uncomfort- 
able, in their tossing little eight-foot craft, with their 
stone anchor dropped under the lee of a tongue of land. 
Bass could not sleep because, from having for so many 
hours during the day had his naked body exposed to the 
burning sun, he was "one continued blister." 
On the third day they took aboard two aboriginals — 
"two Indians," Flinders calls them — natives of Botany 
Bay, who offered to pilot them to a place where they 
could obtain not only water but also fish and wild duck. 

They were conducted to a small stream descending 
from a lagoon, and rowed up it for about a mile until 
it became too shallow to proceed. Eight or ten 
aboriginals put in an appearance, and Bass and Flinders 
began to entertain doubts of securing a retreat from 
these people should they be inclined to be hostile. 
"They had the reputation at Port Jackson of being 
exceedingly ferocious, if not cannibals." 

The powder having become wet and the muskets 
rusty, Bass and Flinders decided to land in order that 
they might spread their ammunition in the sun to dry, 


and clean their weapons. The natives, who increased 
in number to about twenty, gathered round and watched 
with curiosity. Some of them assisted Bass in repair- 
ing a broken oar. They did not know what the powder 
was, but, when the muskets were handled, so much 
alarm was excited that it was necessary to desist. Some 
of them had doubtless learnt from aboriginals about 
Port Jackson of the thunder and lightning made by 
these mysterious pieces of wood and metal, and had had 
described to them how blackfellows dropped dead 
when such things pointed and smoked at them. 
Flinders, anxious to retain their confidence (because, 
had they assumed the offensive, they must speedily have 
annihilated the three whites), hit upon an amusing 
method of diverting them. The aboriginals were 
accustomed to wear their coarse black hair and beards 
hanging in long, shaggy, untrimmed locks, matted with 
accretions of oil and dirt. When the two Botany Bay 
blacks were taken on board the Tom Thumb as pilots, 
a pair of scissors was applied to their abundant and too 
emphatically odorous tresses. Flinders tells the rest 
of the story: — 

"We had clipped the hair and beards of the two 
Botany Bay natives at Red Point,* and they were show- 
ing themselves to the others and persuading them to 
follow their example. Whilst therefore the powder 
was drying, I began with a large pair of scissors to 
execute my new office upon the eldest of four or five 
chins presented to me, and as great nicety was not re- 
quired, the shaving of a dozen of them did not occupy 
me long. Some of the more timid were alarmed at a 
formidable instrument coming so near to their noses, 
and would scarcely be persuaded by their shaven friends 
to allow the operation to be finished. But when their 

* Near Port Kembla ; named by Cook. 


chins were held up a second time, their fear of the instru- 
ment, the wild stare of their eyes, and the smile which 
they forced, formed a compound upon the rough 
savage countenance not unworthy the pencil of a 
Hogarth. I was almost tempted to try what effect a 
little snip would produce; but our situation was too 
critical to admit of such experiments." 

Flinders treats the incident lightly, and as a means 
of creating a diversion while preparing a retreat it was 
useful; but it can hardly be supposed to have been an 
agreeable occupation to barber a group of aboriginals. 
What the heads were like that received Flinders' minis- 
trations, may be gathered from the description by 
Clarke, the supercargo of the wrecked Sydney Cove, 
concerning the natives whom he encountered in the 
following year (March 1797) : "Their hair is long and 
straight, but they are wholly inattentive to it, either as 
to cleanliness or in any other respect. It serves them 
in lieu of a towel to wipe their hands as often as they 
are daubed with blubber or shark oil, which is their 
principal article of food. This frequent application of 
rancid grease to their heads and bodies renders their 
approach exceedingly offensive." 

But the adventure, by putting the blacks into a good 
humour, enabled Bass and Flinders to collect their 
dried powder, obtain fresh water, and get back to their 
boat. The natives became vociferous for them to go 
up to the lagoon, but the natives "dragged her along 
down the stream shouting and singing," until the depth 
of water placed them in safety. Flinders, in his 
Journal, expressed the view that "we were perhaps 
considerably indebted for the fear the natives enter- 
tained of us to an old red jacket which Mr. Bass wore, 
and from which they took us to be soldiers, whom they 
were particularly afraid of; and though we did not 


much admire our new name, Soja, we thought it best 
not to undeceive them." 

On March 25 they anchored "under the innermost 
of the northern islets ... we called these Martin's 
Isles after our young companion in the boat."* 

They were now in the Illawarra district, one of the 
most prolific in New South Wales ;t and the observation 
of Flinders that the land they saw was "probably fertile, 
and the slopes of the back hills had certainly that 
appearance," has been richly justified by a century's 

The two friends and their boy had to remain on the 
Tom Thumb for a third night; but next afternoon 
(March 28) they were able to land unmolested, to cook 
a meal, and to take some rest on the shore. "The sandy 
beach was our bed, and after much fatigue and passing 
three nights of cramp in Tom Thumb it was to us a 
bed of down." 

At about ten o'clock at night, on March 29th, the 
little craft was in extreme danger of foundering in a 
gale. The anchor had been cast under the lee of a 
range of cliffs, but the situation was insecure, so that 
Bass and Flinders considered it prudent to haul up the 
stone and run before the wind. The night was dark, 
the wind burst in a gale, and the adventurers had no 
knowledge of any place of security to which they could 
run. The frowning cliffs above them and the smashing 
of the surf on the rocks, were their guide in steering a 
course parallel with the coast. Bass held the sheet, 
Flinders steered with an oar, and the boy bailed out the 
water which the hissing crests of wind-lashed waves 
flung into the boat. "It required the utmost exertion 
to prevent broaching to; a single wrong movement or 

* Journal. 

tMcFarlane, Illawarra and Monaro (Sydney, 1872), p. 8. 


a moment's inattention would have sent us to the 

They drove along for an hour in this precarious 
situation, hoping for an opening to reveal itself into 
which they could run for shelter. At last, Flinders, 
straining his eyes in the darkness, distinguished right 
ahead some high breakers, behind which there appeared 
to be no shade of cliffs. So extremely perilous was their 
position at this time, with the water increasing despite 
the efforts of the boy, that Flinders, an unusually placid 
and matter-of-fact writer when dealing with dangers of 
the sea, declares that they could not have lived ten 
minutes longer. On the instant he determined to turn 
the boat's head for these breakers, hoping that behind 
them, as there were no high cliffs, there might be 
sheltered water. The boat's head was brought to the 
wind, the sail and mast were taken down, and the oars 
were got out. "Pulling thus towards the reef, 
through the intervals of the heaviest seas, we found it 
to terminate in a point, and in three minutes were in 
smooth water under its lee. A white appearance 
further back kept us a short time in suspense, but a 
nearer approach showed it to be the beach of a well- 
sheltered cove, under which we anchored for the rest of 
the night." They called the place of refuge Providen- 
tial Cove. The native name was Watta-Mowlee (it is 
now called Wattamolla). 

On the following morning, March 30th, the weather 
having moderated, the Tom Thumb's sail was again 
hoisted, and she coasted northward. After a progress of 
three or four miles, Flinders and Bass found the 
entrance of Port Hacking, for the exploration of which 
they had made this cruise. It was a much-indented 
inlet directly south of Botany Bay, divided from it by a 
broad peninsula, and receiving at its head the waters 
of a wide river, besides several small creeks; and was 


named after Henry Hacking, a pilot who had indicated 
its whereabouts, having come near it " in his kangaroo- 
hunting excursions/' The two young explorers spent the 
better part of two days in examining the neighbourhood; 
and anyone who has had the good fortune to traverse 
that piece of country, with its grassed glades, its 
timbered hillsides, its exquisite glimpses of sapphire sea 
and cool silver river, its broken and diversified surface, 
rich with floral colour — for they saw it in early autumn 
— can realise how satisfied they must have felt with their 
work. After a nine days' voyage, they sailed out of 
Port Hacking early on April 2nd, and, aided by a fine 
wind, drew up alongside the Reliance in Port Jackson 
on the evening of the same day. 

The Reliance was an old and leaky ship. She had 
seen much service and was badly in need of repairs. 
"She is so extremely weak in her whole frame that it is 
in our situation a difficult matter to do what is neces- 
sary," wrote Hunter to the Secretary of State. Ship- 
wrights' conveniences could hardly be expected to be 
ample in a settlement that was not yet ten years old, and 
where skilled labour was necessarily deficient. But she 
had to be repaired with the best material and direction 
available, for she was the best ship which His Majesty's 
representative had at his disposal. The Supply was 
pretty well beyond renovation. She was American 
built, and her timbers of black birch were never suitable 
for service in warm waters. Shortly after the dis- 
covery of Port Hacking, Hunter set about the over- 
hauling of the vessel that was at once his principal means 
of naval defence, his saluting battery, his official inspect- 
ing ship, his transport, and his craft of all work. He 
wanted her especially just now, for a useful piece of 
colonial service. 

The Governor had received intelligence from 
Major-General Craig, who had commanded the land 


forces when Admiral Elphinstone occupied the Cape of 
Good Hope, that a British protectorate had been estab- 
lished at that very important station. As Hunter had 
himself made the suggestion to the Government that 
such a step should be taken, the news was especially 
gratifying to him. Amongst his instructions from the 
Secretary of State was a direction to procure from South 
Africa live cattle for stocking the infant colony. He 
had brought out with him, at Sir Joseph Banks' sugges- 
tion, a supply of growing vegetables for transplantation 
and of seeds for sowing at appropriate seasons. He 
now set about obtaining the live stock. 

The Reliance and the Supply sailed by way of Cape 
Horn to South Africa, where they took on board a 
supply of domestic animals. The former vessel carried 
109 head of cattle, 107 sheep and three mares. Some 
of the officers brought live stock on their own account. 
Thus Bass had on board a cow and nineteen sheep, and 
Waterhouse had enough stock to start a small farm; 
but it does not appear that Flinders brought any 
animals. "I believe no ship ever went to sea so much 
lumbered," wrote Captain Waterhouse; and the un- 
pleasantness of the voyage can be imagined, apart from 
that officer's assurance that it was "one of the longest 
and most disagreeable passages I ever made." The 
vessels left Cape Town for Sydney on April 11th, 1797. 
The Supply was so wretchedly leaky that it was con- 
sidered positively unsafe for her to risk the voyage. 
But her commander, Lieutenant William Kent, had a 
high sense of duty, and his courage was guided by the 
fine seamanship characteristic of the service. Having in 
view the importance to the colony of the stock he had 
on board, he determined to run her through. As a 
matter of fact, the Supply arrived in Sydney forty-one 
days before the Reliance (May 16), though Hunter 
reported that she reached port "in a most distressed and 


dangerous condition," and would never be fit for sea 
again. Kent's memory is worthily preserved on the 
map of Australia by the name (given by Flinders or by 
Hunter himself) of the Kent group of islands at the 
eastern entrance of Bass Strait. 

The Reliance, meeting with very bad weather, made 
a very slow passage. Captain Waterhouse mentioned 
that one fierce gale was "the most terrible I ever saw or 
heard of," so that he "expected to go to the bottom 
every moment." He wondered how they escaped des- 
truction, but rounded off his description with a seaman's 
joke : "possibly I may be intended to be hung in room of 
being drowned." The ship was very leaky all the way, 
and Hunter reported that she returned to port with her 
pumps going. She reached Sydney on June 26th. 

The unseaworthy condition of the Reliance had an 
important bearing on the share Flinders took in Aus- 
tralian discovery, for it was unquestionably in conse- 
quence of his being engaged upon her repair that he was 
prevented from accompanying his friend Bass on the 
expedition which led to the discovery of Bass Strait. 
This statement is proved not only by the testimony of 
Flinders himself, but by concurrent facts. Waterhouse 
wrote on the return of the ship to Port Jackson, 
"we have taken everything out of her in hopes of repair- 
ing her." This was in the latter part of 1797. A 
despatch from Hunter to the British Government in 
January, 1798, shows that at that time she was still 
being patched up. Flinders recorded that "the great 
repairs required by the Reliance would not allow of my 
absence," but that "my friend Mr. Bass, less confined by 
his duty, made several excursions." Finally, it was on 
December 3rd, 1797, while the refitting was in pro- 
gress, that Bass started out on the adventurous voyage 
which led to the discovery of the stretch of water 
separating Tasmania from the mainland of Australia. 


But for the work on the Reliance, there cannot be the 
shadow of a doubt that Flinders would have been with 
him. Duty had to be done, however; the "ugly com- 
manded work," in which, as the sage reminds us, genius 
has to do its part in common with more ordinary 
mortals, made demands that must take precedence of 
adventurous cruising along unknown coasts. So it was 
that the cobbling of a debilitated tub separated on an 
historic occasion two brave and loyal friends whose 
names will be thought of together as long as British 
people treasure the memory of their choice and daring 

Chapter VII. 

The patching up of the Reliance not being surgeon's 
work, Bass, throbbing with energy, looked about him 
for some useful employment. The whole of the New 
South Wales settlement at this time consisted of an 
oblong — the town of Sydney itself — on the south side 
of Port Jackson, a few sprawling paddocks on either 
side of the fang-like limbs of the harbour, some small 
pieces of cultivated land further west, at and beyond 
Parramatta, and a cultivable area to the north-west on 
the banks of the Hawkesbury River. A sketch-map 
prepared by Hunter, in 1796, illustrates these very 
small early attempts of the settlement to spread. They 
show up against the paper like a few specks of lettuce 
leaf upon a white table cloth. The large empty spaces 
are traversed by red lines, principally to the south-west, 
marking "country which has been lately walked over." 
The red lines end abruptly on the far side of a curve in 
the course of the river Nepean, where swamps and hills 
are shown. The map-maker "saw a bull" near a hill 
which was called Mount Hunter, and marked it down. 
West of the settlement, behind Richmond Hill on 
the Hawkesbury, the map indicated a mountain range. 
Bass's first effort at independent exploration was an 
endeavour to find a pass through these mountains. The 
need was seen to be imminent. As the colony grew, 
the limits of occupation would press up to the foot of 
this blue range, which, with its precipitous walls, its 
alluring openings leading to stark faces of rock, its 
sharp ridges breaking to sheer ravines, its dense scrub 
and timber, defied the energies of successive explorers. 



Governor Phillip, in 1789, reached Richmond by way 
of the Hawkesbury. Later in the same year, and in the 
next, further efforts were made, but the investigators 
were beaten by the stern and shaggy hills. Captain 
William Paterson, in 1793, organized an attacking 
party, consisting largely of Scottish highlanders, hoping 
that their native skill and resolution would find a path 
across the barrier; but they proceeded by boat only, and 
did not go far. In the following year quartermaster 
Hacking, with a party of hardy men, spent ten days 
among the mountains, but no path or pass practicable 
for traffic rewarded his endeavours. Sydney was shut 
in between the sea and this craggy rampart. What the 
country on the other side was like no man knew. 

In June, 1796, before the Reliance sailed for South 
Africa, George Bass made his try. The task was hard, 
and worth attempting, two qualifications which recom- 
mended it strongly to his mind. He collected a small 
party of men upon whom he could rely for a tough 
struggle, took provisions for about a fortnight, equipped 
himself with strong ropes with which to be lowered 
down ravines, had scaling irons made for his feet, and 
hooks to fasten on his hands, and set out ready to cut or 
climb his way over the mountains, determined to assail 
their defiant fastnesses up to the limits of possibility. 
It was a stiff enterprise, and Bass and his party did not 
spare themselves. But the Blue Mountains were a 
fortress that was not to be taken by storm. Bass's 
success, as Flinders wrote, u was not commensurate to 
the perseverance and labour employed." After fifteen 
days of effort, the baffled adventurers confessed them- 
selves beaten, and, their provisions being exhausted, 
returned to Sydney. 

They had pushed research further than any previous 
explorers had done, and had marked down the course of 
the river Grose as a practical result of their work. But 


Bass now believed the mountains to be hopeless; and, 
indeed, George Caley, a botanical collector employed by 
Sir Joseph Banks, having seven years later made 
another attempt and met with repulse, did not hesitate 
to tell a committee of the House of Commons, which 
summoned him to appear as a witness, that the range 
was impassable. It seemed that Nature had tumbled 
down an impenetrable bewilderment of rock, the hill- 
sides cracking into deep, dark crevices, and the crests 
of the mountains showing behind and beyond a massed 
confusion of crags and hollows, trackless and un- 
traversable. Governor King declared himself satisfied 
that the effort to cross the range was a task "as 
chimerical as useless," an opinion strengthened by the 
fact that, as Allan Cunningham had related,* the 
aboriginals known to the settlement were "totally ignor- 
ant of any pass to the interior." 

It was not, indeed, till 1813 that Gregory Blaxland, 
with Lieutenant Lawson and William Charles Went- 
worth (then a youth), as companions, succeeded in 
solving the problem. The story of their steady, per- 
sistent, and desperate struggle being beyond the scope 
of this biography, it is sufficient to say that after fifteen 
days of severe labour, applied with rare intelligence and 
bushcraft, they saw beneath them waving grass-country 
watered by clear streams, and knew that tliey had found 
a path to the interior of the new continent. 

Bass's eagerness to explore soon found other scope. 
In 1797, report was brought to Sydney by shipwrecked 
mariners that, in traversing the coast, they had seen 
coal. He at once set off to investigate. At the place 
now called Coalcliff, about twenty miles south of Botany 
Bay, he found a vein of coal about twenty feet above the 
surface of the sea. It was six or seven feet thick, and 

* On "Progress of Interior Discovery in New South Wales," 
Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1832), Vol. II., 99. 


dipped to the southward until it became level 
with the sea, "and there the lowest rock you can see 
when the surf retires is all coal." It was a discovery 
of first-class importance — the first considerable find ot 
a mineral that has yielded incalculable wealth to Aus- 
tralia.* He made this useful piece of investigation in 
August; and in the following month undertook a 
journey on foot, in company with Williamson, the act- 
ing commissary, from Sydney to the Cowpastures, cross- 
ing and re-crossing the River Nepean, and thence 
descending to the sea a few miles south of his old rest- 
ing place, Watta-Mowlee. His map and notes are full 
of evidence of his careful observation. "Tolerably 
good level ground," "good pastures," "mountainous 
brushy land," and so forth, are remarks scored across 
his track line. But these were pastimes in comparison 
with the enterprise that was now occupying his mind, 
and upon which his fame chiefly rests. 

Hunter's despatch to the Duke of Portland, dated 
March 1st, 1798, explains the circumstances of the ex- 
pedition leading to the discovery of Bass Strait: "The 
tedious repairs which His Majesty's ship Reliance 
necessarily required before she could be put in a con- 
dition for going again to sea, having given an oppor- 
tunity to Mr. George Bass, her surgeon, a young man 
of a well-informed mind and an active disposition, to 
offer himself to be employed in any way in which he 

* It is well to remember that the use of coal was discovered in 
England in very much the same way. Mr. Salzmann, English In- 
dustries of the Middle Ages (1913), p. 3, observes that "it is most 
probable that the first coal used was washed up by the sea, and such 
as could be quarried from the face of the cliffs where the seams 
were exposed by the action of the waves." He quotes a sixteenth 
century account relative to Durham : "As the tide comes in it 
bringeth a small wash sea coal, which is employed to the making 
of salt and the fuel of the poor fisher towns adjoining." Hence, 
originally, coal in England was commonly called sea-coal even when 
obtained inland. 


could contribute to the benefit of the public service, I 
enquired of him in what way he was desirous of exerting 
himself, and he informed me nothing would gratify him 
more effectually than my allowing him the use of a good 
boat and permitting him to man her with volunteers 
from the King's ships. I accordingly furnished him 
with an excellent whaleboat, well fitted, victualled, and 
manned to his wish, for the purpose of examining the 
coast to the southward of this port, as far as he could 
with safety and convenience go." 

It is clear from this despatch that the impulse was 
Bass's own, and that the Governor merely supplied the 
boat, provisioned it, and permitted him to select his own 
crew. Hunter gave Bass full credit for what he did, 
and himself applied the name to the Strait when its 
existence had been demonstrated. It is, however, but 
just to Hunter to observe, that he had eight years before 
printed the opinion that there was either a strait or a 
deep gulf between Van Diemen's Land and New 
Holland. In his Historical Journal of the Transac- 
tions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island (London. 
1793), he gave an account of the voyage of the Sirius, 
in 1789, from Port Jackson to the Cape of Good Hope 
to purchase provisions. In telling the story of the 
return voyage he wrote (p. 125) : — 

"In passing at a distance from the coast between 
the islands of Schooten and Furneaux and Point Hicks, 
the former being the northernmost of Captain 
Furneaux's observations here, and the latter the 
southernmost part which Captain Cook saw when he 
sailed along the coast, there has been no land seen, and 
from our having felt an easterly set of current and when 
the wind was from that quarter (north-west), we had 
an uncommon large sea, there is reason to believe that 
there is in that space either a very deep gulf or a strait, 
which may separate Van Diemen's Land from New 


Holland. There have no discoveries been made on the 
western side of this land in the parallel I allude to, 
between 39° 00' and 42° 00' south, the land there 
having never been seen." 

Hunter was, therefore, quite justified, in his des- 
patch, in pointing out that he had "long conjectured" 
the existence of the Strait. He seems, not unwarrant- 
ably, to have been anxious that his own share in the dis- 
coveries, as foreseeing them and encouraging the efforts 
that led to them, should not be overlooked. The Naval 
Chronicle of the time mentioned the subject, and re- 
turned to it more than once.* But if we may suppose 
Hunter to have inspired some of these allusions, it must 
be added that they are scrupulously fair, and claimed 
no more for him than he was entitled to have remem- 
bered. Bass's work is in every instance properly 
appreciated; and in one article (N.C., XV., 62) he is 
characterised, probably through Hunter's instrument- 
ality — the language is very like that used in the official 
despatch — as u a man of considerable enterprise and 
ingenuity, a strong and comprehensive mind with the 
advantage of a vigorous body and healthy constitution." 
The boat was 28 feet 7 inches long, head and stern alike, 
fitted to row eight oars, with banksia timbers and cedar 

One error relating to this justly celebrated voyage 
needs to be corrected, especially as currency has been 
given to it in a standard historical work. It is not true 
that Bass undertook his cruise "in a sailing boat with a 
crew of five convicts."t His men were all British 
sailors. Hunter's despatch indicates that Bass asked 
to be allowed to man his boat "with volunteers from the 

*See Naval Chronicle, Vol. IV., 159 (1800); VI., 349 (1801) 
XV., 62 (1806), etc. 

t The Royal Navy : a History, Vol. IV., 567. 






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King's ships," and that she was ''manned to his wish," 
and Flinders, in his narrative of the voyage, stated that 
his friend was "furnished with a fine whaleboat, and 
six weeks' provisions by the Governor, and a crew of 
six seamen from the ships." 

It is, indeed, much to be regretted that, with one 
exception to be mentioned in a later chapter, the names 
of the seamen who participated in this remarkable cruise 
have not been preserved. Bass had no occasion 
in his diary to mention any man by name, but it is quite 
evident that they were a daring, enduring, well-matched 
and thoroughly loyal band, facing the big waters in 
their small craft with heroic resolution, and never fail- 
ing to respond when their chief gave a lead. When, 
after braving foul weather, and with food supplies 
running low, the boat was at length turned homeward, 
Bass writes "we did it reluctantly," coupling his willing 
little company with himself in regrets that discovery 
could not be pushed farther than they had been able to 
pursue it. Throughout his diary he writes in the first 
person plural, and he records no instance of complaint 
of the hardships endured or of quailing before the 
dangers encountered. 

It is likely enough that the six British sailors who 
manned Bass's boat had very little perception that they 
were engaged upon a task that would shine in history. 
An energetic ship's surgeon whom everybody liked had 
called for volunteers in an affair requiring stout arms 
and hearts. He got them, they followed him, did their 
job, and returned to routine duty. They did not 
receive any extra pay, or promotion, or official recog- 
nition. Neither did Bass, beyond Hunter's commenda- 
tion in a despatch. He wrote up his modest little 
diary, a terse record of observations and occurrences, 
and got ready for the next adventure. 

We will follow him on this one. 


On the evening of Sunday, December 3, 1797, at 
six o'clock, Bass's men rowed out of Port Jackson heads 
and turned south. The night was spent in Little Bay, 
three miles north of Botany Bay, as Bass did not deem it 
prudent to proceed further in the darkness, the weather 
having become cloudy and uncertain, and things not 
having yet found their proper place in the boat. Nor 
was very much progress made on the 4th, for a violent 
wind was encountered, which caused Bass to make for 
Port Hacking. On the following day, "the wind 
headed in flurries," and the boat did not get further than 
Providential Cove, or Watta-mowley, where the Tom 
Thumb had taken refuge in the previous year. On the 
7th, Bass reached Shoalhaven, which he named. He 
remained there three days, and described the soil and 
situation with some care. "The country around it is 
generally low and swampy and the soil for the most 
part is rich and good, but seemingly much subject to 
extensive inundation." One sentence of comment reads 
curiously now that the district is linked up by railway 
with Sydney, and exports its butter and other produce to 
the markets of Europe. "However capable much of 
the soil of this country might upon a more accurate in- 
vestigation be found to be of agricultural improvement, 
certain it is that the difficulty of shipping off the produce 
must ever remain a bar to its colonisation. A nursery 
of cattle might perhaps be carried on here with advan- 
tage, and that sort of produce ships off itself." Bass, 
a farmer's son, reared in an agricultural centre, was a 
capable judge of good country, but of course there was 
nothing when he saw these rich lands to foretell an era 
of railways and refrigerating machinery. 

On December 10th the boat entered Jervis Bay, and 
on the 18th Bass discovered Barmouth Creek (pro- 
bably the mouth of the Bega River), "the prettiest little 
model of a harbour we had ever seen." Were it not 


for the shallowness of the bar, he considered that the 
opening would be "a complete harbour for small craft;" 
but as things were, "a small boat even must watch her 
times for going in." On the 19th, at seven o'clock in 
the morning, Twofold Bay was discovered. Bass 
sailed round it, made a sketch of it, and put to sea again, 
thinking it better to leave the place for further examina- 
tion on the return voyage, and to take advantage of the 
fair wind for the southward course. He considered 
the nautical advantages of the harbour — to become in 
later years a rather important centre for whaling — 
superior to those of any other anchorage entered during 
the voyage. A landmark was indicated by him with a 
quaint touch: "It may be known by a red point on the 
south side, of the peculiar bluish hue of a drunkard's 
nose." On the following day at about eleven o'clock 
in the morning he rounded Cape Howe, and commenced 
his westerly run. He was now nearing a totally new 
stretch of coast. 

From the 22nd to the 30th bad weather was ex- 
perienced. A gale blew south-west by west, full in their 
teeth. The situation must have been uncomfortable 
in the extreme, for the boat was now entering the Strait. 
The heavy seas that roll under the lash of a south-west 
gale in that quarter do not make for the felicity of those 
who face them on a well-found modern steamer. For 
the seven Englishmen in an open boat, groping along 
a strange coast, the ordeal was severe. But no doubt 
they wished each other a merry Christmas, in quite the 
traditional English way, and with hearty good feeling, 
on the 25 th. 

On the last day of the year, in more moderate 
weather, the boat was coasting the Ninety Mile Beach, 
behind the sandy fringe of which lay the fat pastures of 
eastern Gippsland. The country did not look very 


promising to Bass from the sea, and he minuted his im- 
pressions in a few words: "low beaches at the bottom 
of heights of no great depth, lying between rocky pro- 
jecting points; in the back lay some short ridges of 
lumpy irregular hills at a little distance from the sea." 

Nowhere in his diary did Bass seize upon any 
picturesque features of scenery, though they are not 
lacking in the region that he traversed. If he was 
moved by a sense of the oppressiveness of vast, silent 
solitudes, or by any sensation of strangeness at feeling 
his way along a coast hitherto unexplored, the emotion 
finds scarcely any reflection in his record. Hard facts, 
dates, times, positions, and curt memoranda, were the 
sole concern of the diarist. He did not even mention 
a pathetic, almost tragic, incident of the voyage, to 
which reference will presently be made. It did not 
concern the actual exploratory part of his work, and so 
he passed it by. The one note signifying an apprecia- 
tion of the singularity of the position is conveyed in the 
terse words: "Sunday 31st, a.m. Daylight, got out and 
steered along to the southward, in anxious expectation, 
being now nearly come upon an hitherto unknown part 
of the coast." 

But men are emotional beings after all, and an 
entry for "January 1st, 1798" (really the evening of 
December 31), bare of the human touch as it is, brings 
the situation of Bass and his crew vividly before the 
eye of the reader. The dramatic force of it must have 
been keenly realised by them. At night there was 
"bright moonlight, the sky without a cloud." A new 
year was dawning. The seven Englishmen tossing 
on the waves in this solitary part of the globe 
would not fail to remember that. They were 
near enough to the land to see it distinctly; it was 
"still low and level." A flood of soft light lay 


upon it, and rippled silvery over the sea. They would 
hear the wash of the rollers that climb that bevelled 
shore, and pile upon the water-line creaming leagues of 
phosphorescent foam. And at the back lay a land of 
mystery, almost as tenantless as the moon herself, but to 
be the future home of prosperous thousands of the 
same race as the men in the whaleboat. To them it 
was a country of weird forms, strange animals, and un- 
tutored savages. If ever boat breasted the "foam of 
perilous seas in faery lands forlorn," it was this, and if 
ever its occupants realised the complete strangeness of 
their situation and their utter aloofness from the tracks 
of their fellowmen, it must have been on this cloudless 
moonlit summer night. There was hardly a stretch 
of the world's waters, at all events in any habitable zone, 
where they could have been farther away from all that 
they remembered with affection and hoped to see again. 
About half an hour before midnight a haze dimmed the 
distinctness of the shore, and at midnight it had 
thickened so that they could scarcely see land at all. 
But they crept along in their course, "vast flights of 
petrels and other birds flying about us," the watch peer- 
ing into the mist, the rest wrapped in their blankets 
sleeping, while the stars shone down on them from a 
brilliant steel-blue sky, and the Cross wheeled high 
above the southern horizon. 

Cook, on his Endeavour voyage in 1770, first 
sighted the Australian coast at Point Hicks, called Cape 
Everard on many current maps. His second officer, 
Lieutenant Zachary Hicks, at six in the morning of 
April 20, "saw ye land making high," and Cook 
"named it Point Hicks because Lieutenant Hicks was 
the first who discovered this land." Point Hicks is a 
projection which falls away landward from a peak, 
backed by a sandy conical hill, but Bass passed it with- 
out observing it. The thick haze which he mentions 


may have obscured the outline. At all events, by dusk 
on January 1st he found that he had filled up the 
hitherto unexplored space between Point Hicks "a point 
we could not at all distinguish from the rest of the 
beach," and the high hummocky land further west, 
which he believed to be that sighted by Captain Tobias 
Furneaux in 1773. It is, however, to be observed that 
Flinders pointed out that all Bass's reckonings after 
December 31st were ten miles out. "It is no matter 
of surprise," wrote his friend indicating an error, "if 
observations taken from an open boat in a high sea 
should differ ten miles from the truth; but I judge that 
Mr. Bass's quadrant must have received some injury 
during the night of the 31st, for a similar error appears 
to pervade all the future observations, even those taken 
under favourable circumstances." The missing of 
Point Hicks, therefore, apart from the thick haze, is not 
difficult to understand. 

On Tuesday, January 2nd, Bass reached the most 
southerly point in the continent of Australia, the ex- 
tremity of Wilson's Promontory. The bold outlines 
were sighted at seven o'clock in the morning. "We 
were surprised by the sight of high hummocky land 
right ahead, and at a considerable distance." Bass 
called it Furneaux Land in his diary, in the belief that 
a portion of the great granite peninsula had been seen 
by the captain of the Adventure in 1773. Furneaux' 
name is still attached to the group of islands divided by 
Banks' Strait from the north-east corner of Tasmania, 
but the name which Bass gave to the Promontory was 
not retained. It is not likely that Furneaux ever saw 
land so far west. "It cannot be the same, as Mr. Bass 
was afterwards convinced," wrote Flinders. Governor 
Hunter, "at our recommendation," named it Wilson's 
Promontory, "in compliment to my friend Thomas 
Wilson, Esq., of London." It has been stated that the 


name was given to commemorate William Wilson, one 
of the whaleboat crew, who "jumped ashore first."* 
Nobody "jumped ashore first" on the westward voyage, 
when the discovery was made, because, as Bass twice 
mentions in his diary, "we could not land." Doubly 
inaccurate is the statement of another writer that "the 
promontory was seen and named by Grant in 1800 after 
Admiral Wilson."f Grant himself, on his chart of 
Bass Strait, marked down the promontory as "accu- 
rately surveyed by Matthew Flinders, which he calls 
Wilson's Promontory," and on p. 78 of his Narrative 
wrote that it was named by Bass. The truth is, as 
related above, that it was named by Hunter on the 
recommendation of Bass and Flinders; and the two 
superfluous Wilsons have no proper place in the story. 
The Thomas Wilson whose name was thus given to one 
of the principal features of the Australian coast — a 
form of memorial far more enduring than "storied urn 
or animated bust" — is believed to have been a London 
merchant, engaged partly in the Australian trade. 
Nothing more definite is known about him. He was as 
one who "grew immortal in his own despight." Of the 
Promontory itself Bass wrote — and the words are ex- 
ceedingly apt — that it was "well worthy of being the 
boundary point of a large strait, and a corner stone of 
this great island New Holland." 

Bass found the neighbourhood of the Promontory 
to be the home of vast numbers of petrels, gulls and 
other birds, as is still the case, and he remarked upon 
the seals observed upon neighbouring rocks, with "a 
remarkably long tapering neck and sharp pointed head." 
They were the ordinary Bass Strait seal, once exceed- 
ingly plentiful, and still to be found on some of the 

* The Coming of the British to Australia, by Ida Lee (London, 
1906), p. 51. 

t Blair, Cyclopaedia of Australia, 748. 


islands, but unfortunately much fewer in numbers now. 
The pupping time was passed when Bass sailed through, 
and many of the females had gone to sea, as is their 
habit. This cause of depletion accounts for his remark 
on his return voyage that the number was "by no means 
equal to what we had been led to expect." But, he 
added, "from the quantity I saw I have every reason to 
believe that a speculation on a small scale might be 
carried on with advantage." 

Foul winds and heavy breaking seas were ex- 
perienced while the boat was nearing the Promontory. 
To make matters worse, leaks were causing anxiety. 
Water was gushing in pretty freely near the water-line 
aft. The crew had frequently remarked in the course 
of the morning of January 3rd how much looser the 
boat had become during the last few days. Her planks 
had received no ordinary battering. It had been Bass's 
intention to strike for the northern coast of Van Die- 
men's Land, which he supposed to be at no very great 
distance. He may at this time have been under the 
impression that he was in a deep gulf. As a matter of 
fact, the nearest point southward that he could have 
reached was 130 miles distant. Anxiety about the con- 
dition of the boat made him resolve to continue his 
coasting cruise westward. Water rushed in fast through 
the boat's side, there was risk of a plank starting, and 
ploughing through a hollow, irregular sea, the explorers 
were, as Flinders reviewing the adventure wrote, "in 
the greatest danger." Bass's record of his night of 
peril is characteristically terse: "we had a bad night of 
it, but the excellent qualities of the boat brought us 
through." He says nothing of his own careful steer- 
ing and sleepless vigilance. 

It was on the evening of the third day, January 3rd, 
that an incident occurred to which, curiously enough, 
Bass made no allusion in his diary, presumably because 


it did not concern the actual work of navigation and dis- 
covery, but which throws a dash of tragic colour into 
the story of his adventure. The boat having returned 
to the coast of what was supposed to be Furneaux Land, 
was running along "in whichever way the land might 
trend, for the state of the boat did not seem to allow of 
our quitting the shore with propriety." The coast line 
was being scanned for a place of shelter, when smoke 
was observed curling up from an island not far from the 
Promontory. At first it was thought that the smoke 
arose from a fire lighted by aboriginals, but it was dis- 
covered, to the amazement of Bass and his crew, that 
the island was occupied by a party of white men. They 
were escaped convicts. The tale they had to tell was 
one of a wild dash for liberty, treachery by con- 
federates, and abandonment to the imminent danger of 

In October of the previous year, a gang of fourteen 
convicts had been employed in carrying stones from 
Sydney to the Hawkesbury River settlement, a few 
miles to the north. Most of them were "of the last 
Irish convicts," as Hunter explained in a despatch, part 
of the bitter fruit of the Irish Mutiny Act of 1796, 
passed to strike at the movement associated with the 
names of Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Wolfe Tone, 
which encouraged the attempted French invasion of Ire- 
land under Hoche. These men seized the boat 
appointed for the service, appropriated the stores, 
threatened the lives of all who dared to oppose them, 
and made their exit through Port Jackson heads. As 
soon as the Governor heard of the escape he despatched 
parties in pursuit in rowing boats. The coast was 
searched sixty miles to the north and forty to the south ; 
but the convicts, with the breeze in their sail and the 
hope of liberty in their hearts, had all the advantage on 
their side, and eluded their gaolers. 


In April, 1797, news had been brought to the settle- 
ment of the wreck of the ship Sydney Cove on an island 
to the southward. If the Irish prisoners could reach 
this island, float the ship on the tide, and repair her 
rents, they considered that they had an excellent chance 
of escape. The provisions which they had on their 
boat, with such as they might find on the ship, would 
probably be sufficient for a voyage. It was a daring 
enterprise, but it may well have seemed to offer a pros- 
pect of success. 

Some of the prisoners at the settlement, as appears 
from a "general order" issued by Hunter, had "picked 
up somehow or other the idle story of the possibility of 
travelling from hence to China, or finding some other 
colony where they expect every comfort without the 
trouble of any labour." It may have been the alluring 
hope of discovering such an earthly paradise that 
flattered these men. As a matter of fact, some convicts 
did escape from New South Wales and reached India, 
after extraordinary perils and hardships. They en- 
deavoured to sail up the River Godavery, but were 
interrupted by a party of sepoys, re-arrested, and sent 
to Madras, whence they were ordered to be sent back 
to Sydney.* 

But the party whom Bass found never discovered 
the place of the wreck upon which they reckoned. 
Instead, they drifted round Cape Howe, and found 
themselves off a desolate, inhospitable coast, without 
knowledge of their whereabouts, and with a scanty, 
rapidly diminishing stock of food. In fear of starva- 
tion seven of them resolved to desert their companions 
on this lonely island near Wilson's Promontory, and 
treacherously sailed away with the boat while the others 
were asleep. It was the sad, sick, and betrayed remnant 

* See Annual Register, 1801, p. 15. 


of this forlorn hope, that Bass found on that wave- 
beaten rock on the 3rd January. For five weeks the 
wretched men had subsisted on petrels and occasional 
seals. Small prospect they had of being saved; the 
postponement of their doom seemed only a prolongation 
of their anguish. They were nearly naked, and almost 
starved to death. Bass heard their story, pitied their 
plight, and relieved their necessities as well as he could 
from his own inadequate stores. He also promised that 
on his return he would call again at the island, and do 
what he could for the party, who only escaped from being 
prisoners of man to become prisoners of nature, locked 
in one of her straitest confines, and fed from a reluc- 
tant and parsimonious hand. 

Bass kept his word; and it may be as well to 
interrupt the narrative of his westward navigation in 
order to relate the end of this story of distress. On 
February 2nd, he again touched at the island. But 
what could he do to help the fugitives? His boat was 
too small to enable him to take them on board, and his 
provisions were nearly exhausted, his men having had to 
eke out the store by living on seals and sea birds. He 
consented to take on board two of the seven, one of 
whom was grievously sick and the other old and feeble. 
He provided the five others with a musket and ammu- 
nition, fishing lines and hooks, and a pocket compass. 
He then conveyed them to the mainland, gave them a 
supply of food to meet their immediate wants, and 
pointed out that their only hope of salvation was to 
pursue the coastline round to Port Jackson. The crew 
of the whaleboat gave them such articles of clothing as 
they could spare. Some tears were shed on both 
sides when they separated, Bass to continue his home- 
ward voyage, the hapless victims of a desperate attempt 
to escape to face the long tramp over five hundred miles 
of wild and trackless country, with the prospect of a 


prolongation of their term of servitude should they ever 
reach Sydney. "The difficulties of the country and the 
possibility of meeting hostile natives are considerations 
which will occasion doubts of their ever being able to 
reach us," wrote Hunter in a despatch reporting the 
matter to the Secretary of State. It does not appear 
that one of the five was even seen again.* 

To return to the discovery cruise: on January 5 th, 
at seven in the evening, Bass's whaleboat turned into 
Westernport, between the bold granite headland of 
Cape Wollamai, on Phillip Island, and Point Griffith 
on the mainland. The discovery of this port, now the 
seat of a naval base for the Commonwealth, was a 
splendid crown to a remarkable voyage. "I have 
named the place," Bass wrote, "from its relative situa- 
tion to every other known harbour on the coast, 
Western Port. It is a large sheet of water, branching 
out into two arms, which end in wide flats of several 
miles in extent, and it was not until we had been here 
some days that we found it to be formed by an island, 
and to have two outlets to the sea, an eastern and 
western passage." 

Twelve days were spent in the harbour. The 
weather was bad; and to this cause in the main we may 

* What some convicts dared and endured in the effort to 
escape, is shown in the following very interesting paragraph, 
printed in a London newspaper of May 30th, 1797: — "The female 
convict who made her escape from Botany Bay, and suffered 
the greatest hardships during a voyage of three thousand 
leagues [presumably she was a stowaway] and who was after- 
wards retaken and condemned to death, has been pardoned and 
released from Newgate. In the story of this woman there is 
something extremely singular. A gentleman of high rank in 
the Army visited her in Newgate, heard the details of her life, 
and for that time departed. The next day he returned, and 
told the gentleman who keeps the prison that he had procured 
her pardon, at the same time requesting that she should not be 
apprized of the circumstance i. The next day he returned with his 
carriage, and took off the poor woman, who almost expired with 


attribute the paucity of the observations made, and the 
defective account given of the port itself. It contains 
two islands : Phillip Island, facing the strait, and French 
Island, the larger of the two, lying between Phillip 
Island and the mainland. Bass was not aware that this 
second island was not part of the mainland. Its exist- 
ance was first determined by the Naturaliste, one of the 
ships of Baudin's French expedition, in 1802. 

Bass's men had great difficulty in procuring good 
water. He considered that there was every appear- 
ance of an unusual drought in the country. This may 
also have been the reason why he saw only three or four 
blacks, who were so shy that the sailors could not get 
near them. There must certainly have been fairly 
large families of blacks on Phillip Island at one time, 
for there are several extensive middens on the coast, 
with thick deposits of fish bones and shells; and the 
author has found there some good specimens of "black- 
fellows' knives" — that is, sharpened pieces of flat, hard 
stone, with which the aboriginals opened their oysters 
and mussels — besides witnessing the finding of a few fine 
stone axes. Bass records the sight of a few brush 
kangaroos and u Wallabah"; of black swan he observed 
hundreds, as well as ducks, "a small but excellent kind," 
which flew in thousands, and u an abundance of most 
kinds of wild fowl." 

By the time the stay in Westernport came to an end, 
Bass had been at sea a month and two days, and had 
sailed well into the strait now bearing his name, though 
he was not yet quite sure that it was a strait. His 
provisions had necessarily run very low. The condition 
of the boat, whose repair occupied some time, increased 
his anxiety. Prudence pointed to the desirableness 
of a return to Port Jackson with the least possible 
delay. Yet one cannot but regret that so intrepid an 
explorer, who was making such magnificent use of 


means so few and frail, was not able to follow the coast 
a very few more miles westward. Another day's sail 
would have brought him into Port Phillip, and he would 
have been the discoverer of the bay at the head of which 
now stands the great city of Melbourne. Perhaps if 
he had done so, his report would have saved Hunter 
from writing a sentence which is a standing warning 
against premature judgments upon territory seen at a 
disadvantage and insufficiently examined. "He found 
in general," wrote the Governor to the Secretary of 
State, "a barren, unpromising country, with very few 
exceptions, and were it even better the want of harbours 
would render it less valuable." The truth is that he 
had seen hardly the fringe of some of the fairest lands 
on earth, and was within cannon shot of a harbour 
wherein all the navies of the world could ride. 

Shortly after dawn on January 18th the prow of 
the whaleboat was "very reluctantly" turned ocean- 
wards for the home journey. The wind was fresh when 
they started, but as the morning wore on it increased to 
a gale, and by noon there were high seas and heavy 
squalls. As the little craft was running along the coast, 
and the full force of the south-westerly gale beat hard 
on her beam, her management taxed the nerve and sea- 
manship of the crew. Bass acknowledged that it was 
"very troublesome," and his "very" means much. This 
extremely trying weather lasted, with a few brief 
intervals, for eight days. As soon as possible Bass 
steered his boat under the lee of Cape Liptrap, not only 
for safety, but also to salt down for consumption during 
the remainder of the voyage a stock of birds taken on 
the islands off Westernport. 

On the night of the 23rd the boat lay snugly under 
the shelter of the rocks, where Bass intended to remain 
until the weather moderated. But at about one o'clock 
in the morning the wind shifted to the south, blowing 


"stronger than before," and made the place untenable. 
At daybreak, therefore, another resting place was 
sought, and later in the morning the boat was beached 
on the west side of a sheltered cove, "having passed 
through a sea that for the very few hours it has been 
blowing was incredibly high." When the wind abated 
the sea went down, so that Bass was able to round the 
Promontory to the east, enter Sealers' Cove, which he 
named, and lay in a stock of seal-meat and salted birds. 

"The Promontory," wrote Bass, "is joined to the 
mainland by a low neck of sand, which is nearly divided 
by a lagoon that runs in on the west side of it, and by a 
large shoal inlet on the east. Whenever it shall be 
decided that the opening between this and Van Die- 
men's Land is a large strait, this rapidity of tide and 
the long S.W. swell that seems continually running in 
upon the coast to the westward, will then be accounted 
for." It is evident, therefore, that at this time Bass 
regarded the certainty of there being a strait as a 
matter yet to "be decided." He was himself thereafter 
to assist in the decision. 

Though Bass does not give any particulars of 
aboriginals encountered at Wilson's Promontory, it is 
apparent from an allusion in his diary that some were 
seen. The sentence in which he mentions them is 
curious for its classification of them with the other 
animals observed, a classification biologically justifiable, 
no doubt, but hardy usual. "The animals," he wrote, 
"have nothing new in them worth mentioning, with 
these exceptions ; that the men, though thieves, are kind 
and friendly, and that the birds upon Furneaux's Land 
have a sweetness of note unknown here," i.e. } at Port 
Jackson. He would not, in February, have heard the 
song-lark, that unshamed rival of an English cousin 
famed in poetry, and the sharp crescendo of the coach- 
whip bird would scarcely be classed as "sweet." "The 


tinkle of the bell-bird in the ranges" may have gratified 
his ear; but the likelihood is that the birds which pleased 
him were the harmonious thrush and the mellow 
songster so opprobiously named the thickhead, for no 
better reason than that collectors experience a difficulty 
in skinning it.* 

The cruise from the Promontory eastward was 
commenced on February 2nd. Eight days later, the 
boat being in no condition for keeping the sea with a 
foul wind, Bass beached her not far from Ram Head. 
He had passed Point Hicks in the night. Cape Howe 
was rounded on the 15th, and on the 25th the boat 
entered Port Jackson. 

Bass and his men had accomplished a great achieve- 
ment. In an open boat, exposed to the full rigours of 
the weather in seas that are frequently rough and were 
on this voyage especially storm-lashed, persecuted per- 
sistently by contrary gales, they had travelled twelve 
hundred miles, principally along an unknown coast, 
which they had for the first time explored. Hunter in 
his official despatch commented on Bass's "perseverance 
against adverse winds and almost incessant bad 
weather," and complimented him upon his sedulous 
examination of inlets in search of secure harbours. But 
there can be no better summary of the voyage than that 
penned by Flinders, who from his own experience could 
adequately appreciate the value of the performance. 
Writing fifteen years later, when Bass had disappeared 
and was believed to be dead, his friend said : — 

"It should be remembered that Mr. Bass sailed with 
only six weeks' provisions; but with the assistance of 

* Mr. Chas. L. Barrett, a well known Australian ornitho- 
logist, and one of the editors of the Emu, knows the Promontory 
well, and he tells me that he has no doubt that the birds which 
pleased Bass were the grey shrike thrush (Collyriocincla 
harmonica) and the white-throated thickhead (Pachycephala 


occasional supplies of petrels, fish, seals'-flesh, and a 
few geese and black swans, and by abstinence, he had 
been enabled to prolong his voyage beyond eleven weeks. 
His ardour and perseverance were crowned, in despite 
of the foul winds which so much opposed him, with a 
degree of success not to have been anticipated from such 
feeble means. In three hundred miles of coast from 
Port Jackson to the Ram Head, he added a number of 
particulars which had escaped Captain Cook, and will 
always escape any navigator in a first discovery, unless 
he have the time and means of joining a close examina- 
tion by boats to what may be seen from the ship. 

"Our previous knowledge of the coast scarcely ex- 
tended beyond the Ram Head; and there began the 
harvest in which Mr. Bass was ambitious to place the 
first reaping-hook. The new coast was traced three 
hundred miles; and instead of trending southward to 
join itself to Van Diemen's Land, as Captain Furneaux 
had supposed, he found it, beyond a certain point, to 
take a direction nearly opposite, and to assume the 
appearance of being exposed to the buffeting of an open 
sea. Mr. Bass himself entertained no doubt of the 
existence of a wide strait separating Van Diemen's Land 
from New South Wales, and he yielded with the greatest 
reluctance to the necessity of returning before it was 
so fully ascertained as to admit of no doubt in the minds 
of others. But he had the satisfaction of placing at the 
end of his new coast an extensive and useful harbour, 
surrounded with a country superior to any other harbour 
in the southern parts of New South Wales. 

"A voyage especially undertaken for discovery in 
an open boat, and in which six hundred miles of coast, 
mostly in a boisterous climate, was explored, has not, 
perhaps, its equal in the annals of maritime history. 
The public will award to its high-spirited and able con- 
ductor — alas! now no more — an honourable place in 


the list of those whose ardour stands most conspicuous 
for the promotion of useful knowledge." 

Bass would have desired no better recognition than 
this competent appraisement of his work by one who, 
when he wrote these paragraphs, had himself ex- 
perienced a full measure of the perils of the sea. 

Was Bass at the time of his return aware that he 
had discovered a strait? It has been asserted that "it 
is evident that Bass was not fully conscious of the great 
discovery he had made."* Bass's language, upon which 
this surmise is founded, was as follows : — "Whenever 
it shall be decided that the opening between this and 
Van Diemen's Land is a strait, this rapidity of tide . . . 
will be accounted for." He also wrote: "There is 
reason to believe it (i.e., Wilson's Promontory) is the 
boundary of a large strait." I do not think these 
passages are to be taken to mean that Bass was at all 
doubtful about there being a strait. On the contrary, 
the words "whenever it shall be decided" express his 
conviction that it would be so decided; but the diarist 
recognised that the existence of the strait had not yet 
been proved to demonstration. His reluctance to turn 
back when he reached Westernport was unquestionably 
due to the same cause. The voyage in the whaleboat 
had not proved the strait. It was still possible, though 
not at all probable, that the head of a deep gulf lay 
farther westward. The subsequent circumnavigation 
of Tasmania by Bass and Flinders proved the strait, as 
did also Grant's voyage through it from the west in the 
Lady Nelson in 1800. 

Hunter had no more evidence than that afforded by 
Bass's discoveries when he wrote, in his despatch to the 
Secretary of State: "He found an open ocean westward, 
and by the mountainous sea which rolled from that 
quarter, and no land discoverable in that direction, we 

* F. M. Bladen, Historical Records of New. South Wales, III., 
327, note. 


have much reason to conclude that there is an open 
strait through." Hunter's "much reason to conclude" 
implies no more doubt about the strait than do the 
words of Bass, but the phrase does imply a recog- 
nition of the want of conclusive proof, creditable to the 
restrained judgment of both men. Flinders also wrote : 
"There seemed to want no other proof of the existence 
of a passage than that of sailing positively through it," 
which is precisely what he set himself to do in Bass's com- 
pany, as soon as he could secure an opportunity. Still 
stronger testimony is that of Flinders, when summing 
up his account of the discovery: "The south-westerly 
swell which rolled in upon the shores of Westernport 
and its neighbourhood sufficiently indicated to the pene- 
trating Bass that he was exposed to the southern Indian 
Ocean. This opinion, which he constantly asserted, 
was the principal cause of my services being offered to 
the Governor to ascertain the principal cause of it." 
Further, although Colonel David Collins was not in 
Sydney at the time of the discovery, what he wrote in 
his Account of the English Colony in New South Wales 
(2nd edition, London, 1804), was based on first-hand 
information ; and he was no less direct in his statement : 
"There was every appearance of an extensive strait, or 
rather an open sea"; and he adds that Bass "regretted 
that he had not been possessed of a better vessel, which 
would have enabled him to circumnavigate Van Die- 
men's Land" (pp. 443-4). 

These passages, when compared with Bass's own 
careful language, leave no doubt that Bass was fully 
conscious of the great discovery he had made, though a 
complete demonstration was as yet lacking.* 

* The reasons given above appear also to justify me in saying 
that there is insufficient warrant for the statement of Sir J. K. 
Laughton {Dictionary of National Biography XLX., 326) that 
"Bass's observations were so imperfect that it was not until they 
were plotted after his return that the importance of what he 
had done was at once apparent." 


An interesting light is thrown on the admiration felt 
for Bass among the colonists at Sydney, by Frangois 
Peron, the historian of Baudin's voyage of exploration. 
When the French were at Port Jackson in 1802, the 
whaleboat was lying beached on the foreshore, and was 
preserved, says Peron, with a kind of "religious 
respect." Small souvenirs were made of its timbers; and 
a piece of the keel enclosed in a silver frame, was pre- 
sented by the Governor to Captain Baudin, as a 
memorial of the "audacieuse navigation." Baudin's 
artist, in making a drawing of Sydney, was careful to 
show Bass's boat stayed up on the sand; and Peron, in 
his Voyage de Deconvertes aux Terres Australes, re- 
spectfully described the discovery of "the celebrated 
Mr. Bass" as "precious from a marine point of view." 


Chapter VIII. 


During the absence of Bass in the whaleboat, the 
repairing of the Reliance was finished, and in February, 
1798, Flinders was able to carry out a bit of exploration 
on his own account. The making of charts was employ- 
ment for which he had equipped himself by study and 
practice, and he was glad to secure an opportunity of 
applying his abilities in a field where there was original 
work to do. The schooner Francis (a small vessel sent 
out in frame from England for the use of the colonial 
government, but now badly decayed) was about to be 
despatched to the Furneaux Islands — north-east of Van 
Diemen's Land, and about 480 miles from Sydney — to 
bring to Sydney what remained of the cargo of the 
wrecked Sydney Cove, and to rescue a few of the crew 
who had been left in charge. Flinders obtained per- 
mission from the Governor to embark in the schooner, 
"in order to make such observations serviceable to 
geography and navigation as circumstances might 
afford," and instructions were given to the officer in 
command to forward this purpose as far as possible. 

The circumstances of the wreck that occasioned the 
cruise of the Francis were these : — 

The Sydney Cove, Captain Guy Hamilton, left 
Bengal on November 10th, 1796, with a speculative 
cargo of merchandise for Sydney. Serious leakages 
became apparent on the voyage, but the ship made the 
coast of New Holland, rounded the southern extremity 
of Van Diemen's Land, and stood to the northward on 
February 1st, 1797. She encountered furious gales 
which increased to a perfect hurricane, with a sea des- 

j 123 


cribed in a contemporary account as "dreadful." The 
condition of the hull was so bad that the pumps could 
not keep the inrush of water under control, and the 
vessel become waterlogged. On February 8th she had 
five feet of water in the well, and by midnight the water 
was up to the lower deck hatches. She was at day- 
break in imminent peril of going to the bottom, so the 
Captain headed for Preservation Island (one of the 
Furneaux Group), sent the longboat ashore with some 
rice, ammunition and firearms, and ran her in until she 
struck on a sandy bottom in nineteen feet of water. The 
whole ship's company was landed safely, tents were 
rigged up, and as much of the cargo as could be secured 
was taken ashore. 

It was necessary to communicate with Sydney 
to procure assistance. The long-boat was launched, 
and, under the direction of the first mate, Mr. 
Hugh Thompson, sixteen of the crew started 
north on February 28th. But fresh misfortunes, as 
cruel as shipwreck and for most of these men more 
disastrous, were heaped upon them. They were smit- 
ten by a violent storm, terrific seas broke over the boat, 
and on the morning of March 2nd she suddenly shipped 
enough water to swamp her. The crew with difficulty 
ran her through the surf that beat on the coast off which 
they had been struggling, and she went to pieces 
immediately. The seventeen were cast ashore on the 
coast of New South Wales, hundreds of miles from the 
only settlement, which could only be reached by the 
crossing of a wild, rough, and trackless country, in- 
habited by tribes of savages. They were without food, 
their clothing was drenched, and their sole means of 
defence consisted of a rusty musket, with very little 
ammunition, a couple of useless pistols, and two small 

The wretched band commenced their march along 


the coast northwards on March 25th. They had to 
improvise rafts to cross some rivers; once a party of 
kindly aboriginals helped them over a stream in canoes ; 
at another time they encountered blacks who hurled 
spears at them. They lived chiefly on small shell-fish. 
Hunger and exposure brought their strength very low. 
On April 16th, after over a month of weary tramping, 
nine of the party dropped from fatigue and had to be 
left behind by their companions, whose only hope was to 
push on while sufficient energy lasted. Two days later, 
three of the remainder were wounded by blacks. At 
last, in May, three only of the seventeen who started 
on this heart-breaking struggle for life against distance, 
starvation and exhaustion, were rescued, ''scarcely 
alive," by a fishing boat, and taken to Sydney. The 
others perished by the way. 

Captain Hamilton, who had stayed by his wrecked 
ship, was rescued in July, 1797; and, as already stated, 
in January of the following year, Governor Hunter 
fitted out the schooner Francis to bring away a few 
Lascar sailors and as much of the remaining cargo as 
could be saved. "I sent in the schooner," wrote the 
Governor in a despatch, "Lieutenant Flinders of the 
Reliance, a young man well-qualified, in order to give 
him an opportunity of making what observations he 
could among those islands." The Francis sailed on 
February 1st. 

The black shadow of the catastrophe that had over- 
taken the Sydney Cove crossed the path of the salvage 
party. The Francis was accompanied by the ten-ton 
sloop Eliza, Captain Armstrong. But shorty after 
reaching the Furneaux Islands the two vessels were 
separated in a storm, and the Eliza went down with all 
hands. Neither the boat nor any soul of her company 
were ever seen or heard of again. 

Flinders had only twelve days available for 


his own work, from February 16th till the 28th, 
but he made full and valuable use of that time 
in exploring, observing and charting. The fruits 
of his researches were embodied in a drawing 
sent to the British Government by Hunter, when 
he announced the discovery of Bass Strait later on 
in 1798. The principal geographical result was the 
discovery of the Kent group of islands, which Flinders 
named "in honour of my friend" the brave and accom- 
plished sailor, William Kent, who commanded the 

The biological notes made by Flinders on this ex- 
pedition are of unusual interest. Upon the islands he 
found "Kanguroo" (his invariable spelling of the 
word), "womat" (sic), the duck-billed platypus, 
aculeated ant-eater, geese, black swan, gannets, shags, 
gulls, red bills, crows, parrakeets, snakes, seals, and 
sooty petrels, a profusion of wild life highly fascinating 
in itself, and, in the case of the animals, affording 
striking evidence of connection with the mainland at a 
comparatively recent period. The old male seals were 
described as of enormous size and extraordinary power. 

"I levelled my gun at one, which was sitting on the 
top of a rock with his nose extended up towards the sun, 
and struck him with three musket balls. He rolled 
over and plunged into the water, but in less than half an 
hour had taken his former station and attitude. On 
firing again, a stream of blood spouted forth from his 
breast to some yards distance, and he fell back sense- 
less. On examination the six balls were found lodged 
in his breast; and one, which occasioned his death, had 
pierced the heart. His weight was equal to that of a 
common ox. . . . The commotion excited by our 
presence in this assemblage of several thousand timid 
animals was very interesting to me, who knew little of 
their manners. The young cubs huddled together in 


the holes of the rocks and moaned piteously; those more 
advanced scampered and bowled down to the water with 
their mothers; whilst some of the old males stood up in 
defence of their families until the terror of the sailors 1 
bludgeons became too strong to be resisted. Those 
who have seen a farmyard well stocked with pigs, with 
their mothers in it, and have heard them all in tumult 
together, may form a good idea of the confusion in con- 
nection with the seals at Cone Point. The sailors 
killed as many of these harmless and not unamiable 
creatures as they were able to skin during the time 
necessary for me to take the requisite angles; and we 
then left the poor affrighted multitude to recover from 
the effect of our inauspicious visit." 

Flinders' observations upon the sooty petrels, or 
mutton birds, seen at the Furneaux Islands, are 
valuable as forming a very early account of one of the 
most remarkable sea-birds in the world : 

"The sooty petrel, better known to us under the 
name of sheerwater, frequents the tufted grassy parts 
of all the islands in astonishing numbers. It is 
known that these birds make burrows in the ground 
like rabbits; that they lay one or two enormous eggs in 
the holes and bring up their young there. In the 
evening they come in from the sea, having their 
stomachs filled with a gelatinous substance gathered 
from the waves, and this they eject into the throats of 
their offspring, or retain for their own nourishment, 
according to circumstances. A little after sunset the air 
at Preservation Island used to be darkened with their 
numbers, and it was generally an hour before their 
squabbling ceased and everyone had found its own 
retreat. The people of the Sydney Cove had a strong 
example of perseverance in these birds. The tents were 
pitched close to to a piece of ground full of their 
burrows, many of which were necessarily filled up from 


walking constantly over them; yet notwithstanding this 
interruption and the thousands of birds destroyed (for 
they constituted a great part of their food during more 
than six months), the returning flights continued to be 
as numerous as before ; and there was scarcely a burrow 
less except in the places actually covered by the tents, 
These birds are about the size of a pigeon, and when 
skinned and smoked we thought them passable food. 
Any quantity could be procured by sending people on 
shore in the evening. The sole process was to thrust 
in the arm up to the shoulder and seize them briskly; 
but there was some danger of grasping a snake at the 
bottom of the burrow instead of a petrel." 

The remark that the egg of the sooty petrel is of 
enormous size is of course only true relatively to the size 
of the bird. The egg is about as large as a duck's egg, 
but longer and tapering more sharply at one end. For 
the rest the description is an excellent one. The wings 
of the bird are of great length and strength, giving to 
it wonderful speed and power of flight. The colour is 
coal-black. Flinders saw more of the sooty-petrel on 
his subsequent voyage round Tasmania; and it will be 
convenient to quote here the passage in which he refers 
to the prodigious numbers in which the birds were seen. 
It may be added that, despite a century of slaughter by 
mankind, and after the taking of millions of eggs — 
which are good food — the numbers of the mutton-birds 
are still incalculably great.* Writing of what he saw 
off the extreme north-west of Tasmania in December, 
1798, Flinders said :— 

"A large flock of gannets was observed at daylight 
to issue out of the great bight to the southward; and 

* The author may refer to a paper of his own, "The Mutton 
Birds of Bass Strait," in the Field, April 18, 1903, for a study of 
the sooty petrel during the laying season on Phillip Island. An 
excellent account of the habits of the bird is given in Camp- 
bell's Nests and Eggs of Australian Birds. 









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they were followed by such a number of sooty petrels 
as we had never seen equalled. There was a stream of 
from fifty to eighty yards in depth and of three hundred 
yards, or more, in breadth; the birds were not scattered, 
but flying as compactly as a free movement of their 
wings seemed to allow; and during a full hour and a 
half this stream of petrels continued to pass without 
interruption at a rate little inferior to the swiftness of 
a pigeon. On the lowest computation I think the 
number could not have been less than a hundred 

He explained how he arrived at this estimate, the 
reliableness of which is beyond dispute, though it may 
seem incredible to those who have not been in southern 
seas during the season when the sooty petrels "most do 
congregate." Taking the stream of birds to have been 
fifty yards deep by three hundred in width, and calcu- 
lating that it moved at the rate of thirty miles* an hour, 
and allowing nine cubic yards for each bird, the number 
would amount to 151,500,000. The burrows required 
to lodge this number would be 75,750,000, and allow- 
ing a square yard to each burrow they would cover some- 
thing more than 18^ geographical square miles. 

The mutton-bird, it will therefore be allowed, is the 
most prolific of all avian colonists. It has also played 
some part in the history of human colonisation. When, 
in 1790, Governor Phillip sent to Norfolk Island a 
company of convicts and marines, and the Sirius, the 
only means of carrying supplies, was wrecked, the popu- 
lation, 506 in all, was reduced to dire distress from want 
of food. Starvation stared them in the face, when it 
was discovered that Mount Pitt was honeycombed with 
mutton-bird burrows. They were slain in thousands. 
"The slaughter and mighty havoc is beyond descrip- 

* Flinders is calculating in nautical miles of 2026S yards each. 


tion," wrote an officer. "They are very fine eating, 
exceeding fat and firm, and I think (though no 
connoisseur) as good as any I ever eat." Many people 
who are not hunger-driven profess to relish young 
mutton-bird, whose flesh is like neither fish nor fowl, but 
an oily blend of both. 

On this cruise Flinders came in sight of Cook's 
Point Hicks; and his reference to it has some interest 
because Bass had missed it; because Flinders himself 
did not on any of his other voyages sail close enough 
inshore on this part of the coast to observe it, and did 
not mark it upon his charts; and because the more recent 
substitution of the name Cape Everard for the name 
given by Cook, makes of some consequence the allusion 
of this great navigator to a projection which he saw only 
once. The Francis on February 4th "was in 38° 16' and 
(by account) 22' of longitude to the west of Point Hicks. 
The schooner was kept more northward in the after- 
noon ; at four o'clock a moderately high sloping hill was 
visible in the N. by W., and at seven a small rocky point 
on the beach bore N. 50° W. three or four leagues. At 
some distance inland there was a range of hills with 
wood upon them, though scarcely sufficient to hide their 
sandy surface." That describes the country near Point 
Hicks accurately. 

The largest island in the Furneaux group, now 
called Flinders Island, was not so named by Flinders. 
He referred to it as "the great island of Furneaux." 
Flinders never named any of his discoveries after him- 
self, not even the smallest rock or cape. Flinders 
Island in the Bight (Investigator Group) was named 
after his brother Samuel. 

It is a little curious that no allusion to the useful 
piece of work done by Flinders on this cruise was made 
by the Governor in his despatches. The omission was 
not due to lack of appreciation on his part, as the en- 


couragement subsequently given to Bass and Flinders 
sufficiently showed. But it was, in truth, work very 
well done, with restricted means and in a very limited 

The question whether the islands examined lay in 
a strait or in a deep gulf was occupying the attention of 
Flinders at just about the same time when his friend Bass, 
in his whaleboat on the north side of the same stretch 
of water, was revolving the same problem in his mind. 
The reasons given by Furneaux for disbelieving in the 
existence of a strait did not satisfy Flinders. The great 
strength of the tides setting westward could, in his 
opinion, only be occasioned by a passage through to the 
Indian Ocean, unless the supposed gulf were very deep. 
There were arguments tending either way; "the con- 
tradictory circumstances were very embarrassing." 
Flinders would have liked to use the Francis forthwith 
to settle the question ; but, as she was commissioned for 
a particular service, and not under his command, he had 
to subjugate his scientific curiosity to circumstances. 

Throughout his brief narrative of this voyage we 
see displayed the qualities which distinguish all his 
original work. Promptness in taking advantage of 
opportunities for investigation, careful and cautiously- 
checked observations, painstaking accuracy in making 
calculations, terse and dependable geographical descrip- 
tion, and a fresh quick eye for noting natural 
phenomena: these were always characteristics of his 
work. He recorded what he saw of bird and animal 
with the same care as he noted nautical facts. We may 
take his paragraph on the wombat as an example. Bass 
was much interested in the wombats he saw, and with 
his surgeon's anatomical knowledge gave a description 
of it which the contemporary historian, Collins, quoted, 
enunciating the opinion that "Bass's womb-bat seemed 
to be very (economically made" — whatever that may 


mean. Flinders' description, which must be one of the 
earliest accounts of the creature, is true : 

"Clarke's Island afforded the first specimen of the 
new animal, called wombat. This little bear-like 
quadruped is known in New South Wales, and is called 
by the natives womat, wombat, or womback, according 
to the different dialects — or perhaps to the different 
rendering of the wood-rangers who brought the in- 
formation. It does not quit its retreat till dark; but it 
feeds at all times on the uninhabited islands, and was 
commonly seen foraging amongst the sea refuse on the 
shore, though the coarse grass seemed to be its usual 
nourishment. It is easily caught when at a distance 
from its burrow ; its flesh resembles lean mutton in taste, 
and to us was acceptable food." 

The original manuscript containing Flinders' 
narrative of the expedition to the Furneaux Islands is 
in the Melbourne Public Library. It is a beautiful 
manuscript, 22 quarto pages, neat and regular, every 
letter perfect, every comma and semi-colon in place: a 
portrait in caligraphy of its author. 

Chapter IX. 

Flinders arrived in Sydney in the Francis about a fort- 
night after Bass reurned in the whaleboat. It was, we 
may be certain, with delight that he heard from the lips 
of his friend the story of his adventurous voyage. The 
eye-sketch of the coastline traversed by Bass was, by the 
Governor's direction, used by him for the preparation 
of a chart to be sent to England. He was able to com- 
pare notes and discuss the probability of the existence 
of a strait, and it was but natural that the two men who 
had so recently been exploring, the one on the north the 
other on the south side of the possible strait, should be 
eager to pursue enquiry to the point of proof. Flinders 
acknowledged, in relating these events, his anxiety to 
gratify his desire of positively sailing through the strait 
and round Van Diemen's Land, and he chafed under 
the routine duties which postponed the effort. The 
opportunity did not occur till September. 

In the meantime, Flinders had to sail in the Reliance 
to Norfolk Island to take over the surgeon, D'Arcy 
Wentworth, father of that William Wentworth whose 
name has already figured in these pages, and who was 
then a boy of seven. This trip took place in May- July. 

In August he sat as a member of the Vice-Admiralty 
Court of New South Wales to try a case of mutiny on 
the high seas. Certain members of the New South 
Wales Corps were accused of plotting to seize the con- 
vict ship Barwell, on her voyage between the Cape and 
Australia, and of drinking the toast "damnation to the 
King and country." The Court considered the evidence 
insufficient, and the men were acquitted, after a trial 
lasting six days. 



At last Flinders had an interview with the Governor 
about completing the exploration of the seas to the 
southward, and offered his services. Hunter, too, was 
anxious to have a test made of Bass's contention, which 
Flinders' own observations supported. On September 
3rd he wrote to the Secretary of State that he was en- 
deavouring to fit out a vessel "in which I propose to 
send the two officers I have mentioned," Bass and 
Flinders. Later in the month the Governor entrusted 
the latter with the command of the Norfolk, a sloop of 
twenty-five tons burthen, built at Norfolk Island from 
local pine. She was merely a small decked boat, put 
together under the direction of Captain Townson of 
Norfolk Island for establishing communication with 
Sydney. She leaked; her timbers were poor material 
for a seaboat in quarters where heavy weather was to be 
expected; and the accommodation she offered for a 
fairly extended cruise was cramped and uncomfortable. 
But she was the best craft the Governor had to offer, 
and Flinders was too keen for the quest to quarrel with 
the means. In those days fine seamanship and en- 
durance often had to make up for deficiencies in equip- 

There were not two happier men in the King's 
service than these fast friends, when they received the 
Governor's commission directing them to sail "beyond 
Furneaux' Islands, and, should a strait be found, to pass 
through it, and return by the south end of Van Die- 
men's Land." The affection that existed between them 
is manifest in every reference which Flinders made to 
Bass in his book, A Voyage to Terra Anstralis. "I had 
the happiness to associate my friend Bass in this new 
expedition," he wrote of the Norfolk's voyage; and it 
was a happiness based not only on personal regard, but 
on kindred feeling for research work, and a similarity 
in active, keen and ardent temperament. 

- • 


The sloop was provisioned for twelve weeks, and 
"the rest of the equipment was completed by the friendly 
care of Captain Waterhouse of the Reliance." A crew 
of eight volunteers was chosen by Flinders from the 
King's ships in port. It is likely that some of them 
were amongst the six who had accompanied Bass to 
Westernport, and Flinders to the Furneaux and Kent 
Islands, but their names have not been preserved. 

The Norfolk sailed on October 7, 1798, in com- 
pany with a sealing boat, the Nautilus * The plan was 
to make the Furneaux Group, then steer westward 
through the strait till the open ocean was reached on 
the further side; and, that accomplished, and the fact of 
the strait's existence conclusively demonstrated, to turn 
down the western coast of Van Diemen's Land, round 
the southern extremity, and sail back to Port Jackson 
up the east coast. This programme was successfully 
carried out. 

An amusing incident, related by Flinders with dry 
humour, occurred in Twofold Bay, which was entered 
u in order to make some profit of a foul wind," Bass 
undertaking an inland excursion, and Flinders occupying 
himself in making a survey of the port. An aboriginal 
made his appearance. 

"He was of middle age, unarmed, except with a 
whaddie or wooden scimitar, and came up to us seem- 
ingly with careless confidence. We made much of him,, 
and gave him some biscuit; and he in return presented 
us with a piece of gristly fat, probably of whale. This 
I tasted; but, watching an opportunity to spit it out 
when he should not be looking, I perceived him doing 

* There are three accounts of the voyage: (1) that of Flinders 
in diary form, printed in the Historical Records of New South 
Wales, Vol. III., appendix B; (2) that of Flinders in his Voyage 
to Terra Australis, Vol. I., p. cxxxviii. ; and (3) that of Bass, 
embodied in Collins' Account of New South Wales. It is probable 
that Bass's diary was lent to Collins for the purpose of writing 
his narrative. The original is not known to exist. 


precisely the same thing with our biscuit, whose taste 
was probably no more agreeable to him, than his whale 
was to me." The native watched the commencement 
of Flinders' trigonometrical operations, "with indiffer- 
ence, if not contempt," and after a little while left the 
party, "apparently satisfied that from people who could 
thus occupy themselves seriously there was nothing to be 

It was not until November 1st that the Norfolk 
sailed from the Furneaux Islands on the flood-tide west- 
ward. The intervening time had been occupied with 
detailed exploring and surveying work. Soundings and 
observations were made, capes, islands and inlets were 
charted and named. The part of Flinders' narrative 
dealing with these phases abounds in detail, noted with 
the most painstaking particularity. Such fulness does 
not make attractive literature for the reader who takes 
up a book of travel for amusement. But it was highly 
important to record these details at the time of the publi- 
cation of Flinders' book, when the coasts and seas of 
which he wrote were very little known; and it has to be 
remembered that he wrote as a scientific navigator, set- 
ting down the results of his work with completeness 
and precision for those interested in his subject, not as 
a caterer for popular literary entertainment. He pre- 
ferred the interest in his writing to lie in the nature of 
the enterprise described and the sincerity with which it 
was pursued rather than in such anecdotal garniture and 
such play of fancy as can give charm to the history of a 
voyage. His book was a substantial contribution to the 
world's knowledge, and it is his especial virtue to have 
set down his facts with such exactitude that our tests of 
them, where they are still capable of being tested, earn 
him credit for punctilious veracity in respect of those 
observations on wild life and natural phenomena as to 
which we have to rely upon his written word. He 


never succumbs to the common sin of travellers — 
writing to excite astonishment in the reader, rather than 
to tell the exact truth as he found it. He was by nature 
and training an exact man. 

On the afternoon of November 3rd the sloop 
entered the estuary of the river Tamar, on which, forty 
miles from the mouth, now stands the fine city of 
Launceston. It was a discovery of first-class import- 
ance. Apart from the pleasure which they derived 
from having made it, the two friends were charmed 
with the beauty of their surroundings. They derived 
the most favourable impression of the quality of the 
land and its suitableness for settlement. They worked 
up the river for several miles, but time did not permit 
them to follow it as far as it was navigable. Thus they 
did not reach the site of the present city, and left the 
superb gorge and cataract to be discovered by Collins 
when he entered the Tamar again in 1804. The 
harbour was subsequently named Port Dalrymple by 
Hunter, after Alexander Dalrymple, the naval hydro- 

The extent of the survey, with delays caused by 
adverse weather, kept the Norfolk in the Tamar estuary 
for a full month. On December 3rd her westward 
course was resumed. From this time forth Bass and 
Flinders were in constant expectancy of passing through 
the strait into the open ocean. The northern trend of 
the coast for a time aroused apprehensions that there 
was no strait after all, and that the northern shore of 
Van Diemen's Land might be connected with the coast 
beyond Westernport. The water was also discoloured, 
and this led Flinders to think that they might be 
approaching the head of a bay or gulf. But on 
December 7th the vigilant commander made an observa- 
tion of the set of the tide, from which he drew an 
"interesting deduction." "The tide had been running 


from the eastward all the afternoon," wrote Flinders, 
"and, contrary to expectation, we found it to be near 
low water by the shore; the flood therefore came from 
the west, and not from the eastward, as at Furneaux' 
Isles. This we considered to be a strong proof, not 
only of the real existence of a passage betwixt this land 
and New South Wales, but also that the entrance into 
the southern Indian Ocean could not be far distant." 

On the following day the deduction was confirmed. 
After the Norfolk had rounded a headland, a long swell 
was observed to come from the south-west, breaking 
heavily upon a reef a mile and a half away. This was 
a new phenomenon ; and both Bass and Flinders "hailed 
it with joy and mutual congratulation, as announcing the 
completion of our long-wished-for discovery of a 
passage into the southern Indian Ocean." They were 
now through the strait. What Bass months before had 
believed to be the case was at length demonstrated to a 
certainty. "The direction of the coast, the set of the 
tides, and the great swell from the S.W., did now com- 
pletely satisfy us that a very wide strait did really exist 
betwixt Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales, and 
also now that we had certainly passed it." 

No time was lost in completing the voyage. The 
Norfolk sped rapidly past Cape Grim and down the 
western coast of Van Diemen's Land. Amateur-built 
as she was, and very small for her work in these 
seas, she was proving a useful boat, and one can enjoy 
the sailors' pride in a snug craft in Flinders' remark con- 
cerning her, that "upon the whole she performed 
wonderfully; seas that were apparently determined to 
swallow her up she rode over with all the ease and 
majesty of an old experienced petrel." 

The wild and desolate aspect of the west coast, as 
seen from the ocean, seems to have struck Flinders with 
a feeling of dread. He so rarely allows any emotion 


to appear in his writing that the sentences in his diary 
wherein he refers to the appearance of the De Witt 
range are striking evidence of his revulsion. "The 
mountains which presented themselves to our view in 
this situation, both close to the shore and inland, were 
amongst the most stupendous works of nature I ever 
beheld, and it seemed to me are the most dismal and 
barren that can be imagined. The eye ranges over 
these peaks, and curiously formed lumps of adamantine 
rock, with astonishment and horror." He acknow- 
ledged that he clapped on all sail to get past this for- 
bidding coast. The passage is singular. Flinders was 
a fenland-bred man, and, passing from the low levels 
of eastern England to a life at sea in early youth, had 
had no experience of mountainous country. He had 
not even seen the mountains at the back of Sydney, 
except in the blue distance. Now, the De Witt range, 
though certainly giving to the coast that it dominates 
an aspect of desolate grandeur, especially when, as is 
nearly always the case, its jagged peaks are seen under 
caps of frowning cloud, would not strike a man who had 
been much among mountains as especially horrid. 
Flinders' burst of chilled feeling may therefore be 
noted as a curious psychological fact.* 

* The reader will perhaps find it interesting to compare this 
reference with a passage in Ruskin's Modern Painters, Vol. 
III., chapter 13: "It is sufficiently notable that Homer, living 
in mountainous and rocky countries, dwells thus delightedly on 
all the flat bits; and so I think invariably the inhabitants of 
mountain countries do, but the inhabitants of the plains do not, 
in any similar way, dwell delightedly on mountains. The Dutch 
painters are perfectly contented with their flat fields and pol- 
lards: Rubens, though he had seen the Alps, usually composes his 
landscapes of a hay-field or two, plenty of pollards and willows, 
a distant spire, a Dutch house with a mast about it, a windmill 
and a ditch. . . So Shakspere never speaks of mountains with 
the slightest joy, but only of lowland flowers, flat fields, and 
Warwickshire streams." Ruskin's citation of the Lincolnshire 
farmer in Alton Locke is apt, with his dislike of "Darned ups 
and downs o'hills, to shake a body's victuals out of his inwards." 


The naming of Mounts Heemskirk and Zeehan, 
the latter since become a mineral centre of vast wealth, 
were the most noteworthy events of the run down the 
western coast. They were named by Flinders after the 
two ships of Tasman, as he took them to be the two 
mountains seen by that navigator on his discovery of 
Van Diemen's Land in 1642. 

The Derwent, whose estuary is the port of Hobart, 
was entered on December 21. Bass's report on the 
fertility of the soil led to the choice of this locality for 
a settlement four years later. 

On the last day of the year the return voyage was 
commenced, and on January 1st, 1799, the Norfolk was 
making for Port Jackson with her prow set north- 
easterly. The winds were unfavourable, and prevented 
Flinders from keeping close inshore, as he would have 
liked to do in order to make a survey. But the pre- 
scribed period of absence having expired, and the pro- 
visions being nearly exhausted, it was necessary to make 
as much haste as possible. On January 8th the Babel 
Isles were marked down, and named "because of the 
confusion of noises made by the geese, shags, penguins, 
gulls, and sooty petrels." Anyone who has camped near 
a rookery of sooty petrels is aware that they are quite 
capable of maintaining a sufficiently "babelish con- 
fusion" — the phrase is Camden's — without any aid 
from other fowls. 

A little later in the month (January 12) the Nor- 
folk sailed into harbour, and was anchored alongside 
the Reliance. "To the strait which had been the great 
object of research," wrote Flinders, "and whose dis- 
covery was now completed, Governor Hunter gave at 
my recommendation the name of Bass Strait. This 
was no more than a just tribute to my worthy friend and 
companion for the extreme dangers and fatigues he had 
undergone in first entering it in the whaleboat, and to 


the correct judgment he had formed, from various indi- 
cations, of the existence of a wide opening between Van 
Diemen's Land and New South Wales." 

Throughout this voyage we find Bass expending his 
abundant energies in the making of inland excursions 
whenever an opportunity occurred. To take a boat up 
rivers, to cut through rough country, to climb, examine 
soil, make notes on birds and beasts, and exercise his 
enquiring mind in all directions, was his constant 

The profusion of wild life upon the coasts 
and islands explored during the voyage astonished the 
travellers. Seals were seen in thousands, sea-birds in 
hundreds of millions. Flinders' calculation regarding 
the sooty petrels has already been quoted. Black swans 
were observed in great quantities. Bass, for example, 
stated that he saw three hundred of these stately birds 
within a space a quarter of a mile square. The Roman 
poet Juvenal could think of no better example of a thing 
of rare occurrence than a black swan : 

" Rara avis in terris, nigroque simillima cygno." 

But here black swans could have been cited in a simile 
illustrating profusion. Bass quaintly stated that the 
"dying song" of the swan, so celebrated by poets, 
"exactly resembled the creaking of a rusty ale-house 
sign on a windy day." The remark is not so pretty as. 
but far more true than, that of the bard who would 
have us believe that the dying swan 

" In music's strains breathes out her life and verse, 
And, chaunting her own dirge, rides on her watery 

The couplet of Coleridge is vitiated by the same error, 
but may merit commendation for practical wisdom : 

" Swans sing before they die ; 'twere no bad thing 
Should certain persons die before they sing." 


Flinders also saw from three to five hundred black 
swans on the lee side of one point ; and so tame were they 
that, as the Norfolk passed through the midst of them, 
one incautious bird was caught by the neck. 

Bass went ashore on Albatross Island to shoot. He 
was forced to fight his way up the cliffs against the seals, 
which resented the intrusion ; and when he got to the top 
he was compelled "to make a road with his club among 
the albatross. These birds were sitting upon their 
nests, and almost covered the surface of the ground, nor 
did they otherwise derange themselves for their new 
visitors than to peck at their legs as they passed by." 

In the Derwent Bass and Flinders encountered 
Tasmanian aboriginals, now an extinct race of men. A 
human voice was heard coming from the hills. The 
two leaders of the expedition landed, taking with them 
a swan as an offering of friendship, and met an 
aboriginal man and two women. The women ran off, 
but the man stayed and accepted the swan "with 
rapture." He was armed with three spears, but his 
demeanour was friendly. Bass and Flinders tried him 
with such words as they knew of the dialects of New 
South Wales and the South Sea Islands, but could not 
make him understand them, "though the quickness with 
which he comprehended our signs spoke in favour of 
his intelligence." His hair was either close-cropped or 
naturally short; but it had not a woolly appearance. 
"He acceeded to our proposition of going to his hut; 
but finding from his devious route and frequent stop- 
pings that he sought to tire our patience, we left him 
delighted with the certain possession of his swan, and 
returned to the boat. This was the sole opportunity 
we had of communicating with any of the natives of 
Van Diemen's Land." 

The results of the cruise of the Norfolk were of 
great importance. From the purely utilitarian point 


of view, the discovery of Bass Strait shortened the 
voyage to Sydney from Europe by quite a week. It 
opened a new highway for commerce. Turnbull, in 
his Voyage Round the World (1814) discussing the ad- 
vantages of the new route, mentioned that "already has 
the whole fleet of China ships, under the convoy of a 64, 
passed through these Straits without the smallest acci- 
dent;" and he pointed out that ships which were late in 
the season for China, and availed themselves of the 
prevailing winds by taking the easterly route round Aus- 
tralia, were thus enabled to avoid the tempestuous 
weather which generally faced them to the south of 
Van Diemen's Land. Governor King, too, writing to 
the Governor of Bombay in 1802, sent him a chart of 
the strait, and pointed out that the discovery would 
"greatly facilitate the passage of ships from India to 
this colony." 

The discovery also revealed a fresh and fertile field 
for the occupation of mankind. Geographically no dis- 
covery of such consequence had been made since the 
noble days of Cook. It brought the names of Bass 
and Flinders prominently before the scientific world, 
and the thoroughness with which the latter had done his 
work won him warm praise from men competent to form 
a judgment. Intimations concerning the discovery 
published in the Naval Chronicle and other journals 
valued the work very highly; and it had the advantage 
of bringing the commander of the Norfolk under the 
notice of Sir Joseph Banks, that earnest and steadfast 
supporter of all sincere research work, who thus became 
the firm friend of Flinders, as he had been the friend 
and associate of Cook thirty years before. 

The turbulent state of Europe in and about 1799, 
with Napoleon Bonaparte rising fast to meridian glory 
on the wings of war, did not incline British statesmen 
to attach much significance to such events as the dis- 


covery of an important strait and the increased oppor- 
tunities for the development of oversea dominions. 
Renewed activity in that direction came a little later. 
There is a letter from Banks to Hunter, written just 
after the return of the Norfolk, but before the news 
reached England (February, 1799), wherein he con- 
veys a concise idea of the perturbation in official circles 
and the difficulty of getting anything done for Aus- 
tralia. "The political situation is so difficult," said 
Banks, "and His Majesty's Ministers so fully employed 
in business of the deepest importance, that it is scarce 
possible to gain a moment's audience on any subject but 
those which stand foremost in their minds ; and colonies 
of all kinds, you may be assured, are now put into the 

But that was no more than a passing phase. The 
seeds of a vaster British Empire than had ever existed 
before had already germinated, and when the years of 
crisis occurred, the will and power of England were 
both ready and strong enough to protect the growing 
plant from the trampling feet of legions. Meanwhile, 
the work on the Norfolk secured for Flinders such use- 
ful encouragement and help as enabled him very little 
later to crown his achievements with a task that at once 
solidified his title to fame and ultimately ended his life. 

Chapter X. 

It has been already mentioned that Bass Strait was 
named by Governor Hunter on the recommendation of 
Flinders. There is no reason to suppose that George 
Bass himself made any claim that his name should be 
applied to his discovery. One derives the impression, 
from a study of his character as revealed in his words 
and acts, that he would have been perfectly content had 
some other name been chosen. He was one of those 
rare men who find their principal joy in the free 
exercise of an intrepid and masculine energy, especially 
in directions affording a stimulus to intellectual curiosity. 
He did not even write a book or an essay about the work 
he had done. The whaleboat voyage was tersely 
recorded in a diary for the information of the 
Governor; his other material was handed over to 
Collins for the purposes of his History of New South 
Wales, and Bass went about his business unrewarded, 
officially unhonoured. 

It is curiously significant of the modesty of this 
really notable man that when, in 1801, he again sailed 
to Australia, he mentioned quite casually in a letter that 
he had passed through Bass Strait without any reference 
to his own connection with the passage. It was not, to 
him, "the strait which I discovered," or "my strait," or 
"the strait named after me," but simply Bass Strait, 
giving it the proper geographical name scored on the 
map, just as he might have mentioned the name of any 
other part of the globe traversed during the voyage. 
The natural pride of the discoverer assuredly would 
have been no evidence of egotism; but Bass was singu- 



larly free from all semblance of human weakness of that 
kind. The difficulties battled with, the effort joyfully 
made, the discovery accomplished, he appears hardly to 
have thought any more about his own part in it. Not 
only his essential modesty but his affectionate nature 
and the frank charm of his manner are apparent in such 
of his letters as have been preserved. 

The association of Bass with Flinders was fruitful 
in achievement, and their friendship was perfect in its 
manliness ; it is pathetic to realise that when they parted, 
within a few weeks after the return of the Norfolk to 
Sydney, these two men, still young in years and rich in 
hope, ability and enterprise, were never to meet again. 

As from this time Bass disappears from the story of 
his friend's life, what is known of his later years may 
be here related. His fate is a mystery that has never 
been satisfactorily cleared up, and perhaps never will 
be. He returned to England "shortly after" the voyage 
of the Norfolk. So wrote Flinders; but "shortly after" 
means later than April, 1799, for in that month Bass 
sat on a board of inquiry into the Isaac Nicholls case, 
to be mentioned again hereafter. 

In England, Bass married Elizabeth Waterhouse, 
sister of his old shipmate Henry Waterhouse, the 
captain of the Reliance. With a wife to maintain, he 
was apparently dissatisfied with his pay and prospects as 
a naval surgeon. Nor was he quite the kind of man 
who would, in the full flush of his restless energy, settle 
down to the ordinary practice of his profession. Con- 
fined to a daily routine in some English town, he would 
have been like a caged albatross pining for regions of 
illimitable blue. 

Within three months of his marriage Bass had 
become managing owner of a smart little 140-ton brig, 
the Venus, in a venture in which a syndicate of friends 
had invested £10,890. In the early part of 1801 he 


sailed in her with a general cargo of merchandise for 
Port Jackson. The brig, which carried twelve guns — 
for England was at war, and there were risks to be run 
— was a fast sailer, teak-built and copper-sheathed, and 
was described as "one of the most complete, handsome 
and strong-built ships in the River Thames, and will 
suit any trade." She was loaded "as deep as she can 
swim and as full as an egg," Bass wrote to his brother- 
in-law; and there is the sailor's jovial pleasure in a good 
ship, with, perhaps, a suggestion of the surgeon's point 
of view, in his declaration that she was "very sound 
and tight, and bids fair to remain sound much longer 
than any of her owners." 

But the speculation was not an immediate success. 
The market was "glutted with goods beyond all com- 
parison," in addition to which Governor King, who 
succeeded Hunter in 1800, was conducting the affairs 
of the settlement upon a plan of the most rigid economy. 
"Our wings are clipped with a vengeance, but we shall 
endeavour to fall on our feet somehow or other," wrote 
Bass early in October, 1801. 

A contract made with the Governor, to bring salt 
pork from Tahiti at sixpence per pound, provided profit- 
able employment for the Venus. Hogs were plentiful 
in the Society Islands, and could be procured cheaply. 
The arrangement commended itself to the thrifty 
Governor, who had hitherto been paying a shilling per 
pound for pork, and it kept Bass actively engaged. He 
was "tired of civilised life." There was, too, money 
to be made, and he sent home satisfactory bills "to stop 
a few holes in my debts." "That pork voyage," he 
wrote to his brother-in-law, "has been our first success- 
ful speculation"; and he spoke again in fond admiration 
of the Venus ; "she is just the same vessel as when we 
left England, never complains or cries, though we 
loaded her with pork most unmercifully." While he 


was pursuing this trade, the French expedition under 
Baudin visited Sydney, and they, on their chart of 
Wilson's Promontory gave the name of Venus Bay to 
an inlet on the west side of Cape Liptrap. They also 
bought goods to the extent of £359 10s. from "Mr. 
George Basse."* 

Bass now secured fishing concessions in New Zea- 
land waters, from which he hoped much. "The fishery 
is not to be put in motion till after my return to old Eng- 
land," he wrote in January, 1803. Then, he said play- 
fully, "I mean to seize upon my dear Bess, bring her 
out here, and make a poissarde of her, where she cannot 
fail to find plenty of ease for her tongue. We have, I 
assure you, great plans in our heads, but, like the basket 
of eggs, all depends upon the success of the voyage I 
am now upon." It was the voyage from which he never 

There is another charming allusion to his wife in a 
letter written from Tahiti : "I would joke Bess upon the 
attractive charms of Tahiti females but that they have 
been so much belied in their beauty that she might think 
me attracted in good earnest. However, there is 
nothing to fear here." He speaks of her again in 
writing to his brother: "I have written to my beloved 
wife, and do most sincerely lament that we are so far 
asunder. The next voyage I have she must make with 
me, for I shall badly pass it without her." The pathos 
of his reference to her in a letter of October, 1801, can 
be felt in its note of manly sympathy, and is deepened 
by the recollection that the young bride never saw him 
again. "Our dear Bess talks of seeing me in eighteen 
months. Alas ! poor Bess, the when is uncertain, very 
uncertain in everything except its long distances. Turn 
our eyes where we will, we see nothing but glutted 
markets around us." 

* MS. accounts of Baudin, Archives Nationales, BB4, 999. 

i •> 

t v V * 

1 lil it 


















a £ 

H I 

fe -"S 

H 1 


The pork-procuring ventures continued till 1803. 
In that year Bass arranged to sail beyond Tahiti to the 
Chilian coast, to buy other provisions for the use of the 
colony. Whether he intended to force the hand of 
fortune by engaging in the contraband trade can only be 
inferred. That there was certainly a large amount of 
illicit traffic with South America on the part of venture- 
some captains who made use of Port Jackson as a 
harbour of refuge, is clear from extant documents. 

The position was this. The persistent policy of 
Spain in the government of her South American posses- 
sions was to conserve trade exclusively for Spanish ships 
and Spanish merchants; and for this purpose several 
restrictions were imposed upon unauthorised foreign 
traders. Nevertheless the inhabitants of these colonies 
urgently required more goods than were imported under 
such excessive limitations, and wanted to get them much 
cheaper than was possible while monopoly and heavy 
taxation prevailed. There was, consequently, a 
tempting inducement to skippers who were sufficiently 
bold to take risks, to ship goods for Chili and Peru, and 
run them in at some place along the immense coast-line, 
evading the lazy eyes of perfunctory Spanish officials, 
or securing their corrupt connivance by bribes. Contra- 
band trade was, in fact, extensively practised, and 
plenty of people in the Spanish colonies throve on it. 
As a modern historian writes: "The vast extent of the 
border of Spain's possessions made it impossible for her 
to guard it efficiently. Smuggling could therefore be 
carried on with impunity, and the high prices which had 
been given to European wares in America by the system 
of restriction, constituted a sufficient inducement to lead 
the merchants of other nations to engage in contraband 
trade."* The profits from success were great; but the 
consequences of detection were disastrous. 

* Bernard Moses, Spanish Rule in America, 289. 


Now Bass, as already related, had brought out to 
Sydney in the Venus a large quantity of unsaleable 
merchandise. He could not dispose of it under con- 
ditions of glut. He had hoped that the Governor 
would take the cargo into the Government store and let 
it be sold even at a 50 per cent, reduction. But King 
declined to permit that to be done. Here, then, was a 
singularly courageous man, fond of daring enterprises, 
in command of a good ship, with an unsaleable cargo 
on his hands. On the other side of the Pacific was a 
country where such a cargo might, with luck, be sold at 
a bounding profit. He could easily find out how the 
trade was done. There was more than one among 
those with whom he would associate in Sydney who 
knew a great deal about it. 

One or two sentences in Bass's last letters to Henry 
Waterhouse contain mysterious hints, which to him, with 
his experience of Port Jackson, would be significant. He 
explained that he intended taking the Venus to visit the 
coast of Chili in search of provisions, "and that they 
may not in that part of the world mistake me for a 
contrabandist, I go provided with a very diplomatic- 
looking certificate from the Governor here, stating the 
service upon which I am employed, requesting aid and 
protection in obtaining the food wanted. And God 
grant you may fully succeed, says your warm heart, 
in so benevolent an object; and thus also say I; Amen, 
say many others of my friends." 

But was the diplomatic-looking paper intended 
rather to serve as a screen than as a guarantee of bona 
fides? "In a few hours," wrote Bass at the beginning 
of February, 1803, "I sail again on another pork 
voyage, but it combines circumstances of a different 
nature also" ; and at the end of the same letter he added : 
"Speak not of South America to anyone out of your 
family, for there is treason in the very name." What 


did he mean by that? He spoke of "digging gold in 
South America/' and clearly did not mean it in the 
strict literal sense. 

It is true that the Governor was anxious 
to get South American cattle and beef for the 
settlement in Sydney, but can that have been the only 
motive for a voyage beyond Tahiti? "If our approach- 
ing voyage proves at all fortunate in its issue, I expect 
to make a handsome thing out of it, and to be much 
expedited on my return to old England," Bass wrote in 
January. He would not have been likely to make so 
very handsome a thing out of beef in one voyage, to 
enable him to expedite his return to England. 

The factors of the case are, then, that Bass had on 
his hands a large quantity of goods which he had failed 
to sell in Sydney; that there was a considerable and 
enormously profitable contraband trade with South 
America at the time; that he expected to make a very 
large and rapid profit out of the venture he was about 
to undertake; that he warned Waterhouse against 
mentioning the matter outside the family circle, "for 
there is treason in the very name" ; and that he was him- 
self a man distinguished by dash and daring, who was 
very anxious to make a substantial sum and return to 
England soon. The inference from his language and 
circumstances as to the scheme he had in hand is 

The "very diplomatic-looking certificate" which the 
Governor gave him was dated February 3, 1803. It 
certified that "Mr. George Bass, of the brigantine 
Venus, has been employed since the first day of 
November, 1801, upon His Britannic Majesty's service 
in procuring provisions for the subsistence of His 
Majesty's colony, and still continues using those exer- 
tions;" and it went on to affirm that should he find it 
expedient to resort to any harbour in His Catholic 


Majesty's dominions upon the west coast of America, 
"this instrument is intended to declare my full belief 
that his sole object in going there will be to procure 
food, without any view to private commerce or any 
other view whatsoever." 

Notwithstanding the terms of this certificate, how- 
ever, there is clear evidence that Governor King was 
fully aware of the nature of the trade conducted with 
the Spanish-American colonies by vessels using Port 
Jackson; and though it may be that Bass did not tell 
him in so many words what his whole intentions were, 
King knew that Bass had a large stock of commodities 
to sell, and could hardly have been ignorant that a con- 
siderable portion of them were re-shipped on the Venus 
for this voyage. In a later despatch he alluded to 
vessels which carried goods "from hence to the coasts 
of the Spanish possessions on the west side of America," 
and he observed "that this must be a forced trade, 
similar to that carried on among the settlements of that 
nation and Portugal on the east side of America, and 
that much risk will attend it to the adventurers." 

Bass sailed from Sydney on February 5th, 1803. 
He never returned, and no satisfactory account of what 
became of him is forthcoming.* Later in 1803 the 
brig Harrington, herself concerned in the contraband 
trade, reported that the Venus had been captured and 
confiscated by the Spaniards in Peru, and that Bass and 
the mate, Scott, had been sent as prisoners to the silver 
mines. In December, 1804, Governor King remarked 

* The writer of the article on Bass in the Dictionary of 
National Biography says that " except that he left Australia in 
1799 to return to England nothing certain is known of Bass's 
subsequent history." But we know fairly fully what he was 
doing up till February, 1803. as related above. The Bass 
mystery commences after that date. The Encyclopaedia Britannica 
(nth edition) finds no space for a separate article on this very 
remarkable man. 


in a despatch to the Secretary of State that he had been 
"in constant expectation" of hearing from Bass, "to 
whom, there is no doubt, some accident has occurred." 
The Harrington had reported the capture of the Venus 
before King wrote that. Why did he not mention the 
circumstance to the British Government? Why did he 
not allude to the country to which he well knew that 
Bass intended to sail? It would seem that King care- 
fully avoided referring in his official despatches to an 
enterprise upon which he had good reason to be aware 
that Bass had embarked. 

War between Great Britain and Spain did not break 
out till December, 1804, after the seizure of the 
Spanish treasure fleet by British frigates off Cadiz 
(October 5th). But in previous years, while Spain, 
under pressure from Napoleon, lent her countenance to 
his aggressive policy, English privateers had freely 
plundered Spanish commerce in the south Pacific, and 
some of them had brought their prizes to Sydney. That 
this was done with the knowledge of the authorities can- 
not be doubted. Everybody knew about it. When the 
French exploring ships were lying at Sydney in 1802, 
Peron saw there vessels "provided with arms, fitting 
out for the western coast of America, stored with 
merchandise of various kinds. These vessels were 
intended to establish, by force of arms, a contraband 
commerce with the inhabitants of Peru, extremely 
advantageous to both parties." 

It would not, therefore, be wonderful that the 
Spanish authorities in Chili or Peru should regard 
Port Jackson as a kind of wasp's nest, and should 
look with suspicion on any vessel coming thence 
which might fall into their hands, however much 
her commander might endeavour to make of his 
official certificate declaring the Governor's "full 
belief" in his lawful intentions. The irritation 


caused by the use that was being made of Sydney 
as a privateering and contraband base of operations 
can be well imagined. As early as December, 1799, in- 
deed, Governor Hunter related that a captured Spanish 
merchant vessel had been brought into port, and he 
acknowledged that "this being the second Spanish prize 
brought hither, we cannot be surprised, should it be 
known that such captures make a convenience of this 
harbour, if it should provoke a visit from some of the 
ships of war from the Spanish settlements on that coast." 
The Spaniards would naturally be thirsting for revenge; 
and a ship sailing direct from the port of which the 
raiders made a "convenience" would be liable to feel 
their ire, should there be the semblance of provocation. 
The authorities would have been justified in holding up 
the Venus if they suspected that she carried contraband 
goods; and their treatment of her officers and crew 
might be expected to reflect the temper of their dis- 
position towards Port Jackson and all that concerned it. 

If, as the Harrington reported, Bass and his com- 
panions were sent to the mines, the Spanish officials 
managed their act of punishment, or revenge, very 
quietly. But at that time there was not a formal state 
of belligerency between England and Spain, though the 
tension of public feeling in Great Britain concerning 
Spanish relations with France was acute. If it were 
considered that such an act as the seizure of the Venus 
would be likely to precipitate a declaration of war, the 
motive for secrecy was strong. Secrecy, moreover, 
would have been in complete conformity with Spanish 
methods in South America. It is not recorded whether 
the seizure of the Venus occurred at Callao, Valparaiso 
or Valdivia; but a British lieutenant, Fitzmaurice, who 
was at Valparaiso five years later, heard that a man 
named Bass had been in Lima some years before. 

A friend of the Bass family residing at Lincoln in 


1852 wrote a letter to Samuel Sidney, the author of 
The Three Colonies of Australia, stating that Bass's 
mother last heard of him "in the Straits of China.' , 
But this was evidently an error of memory. If Bass 
ever got out of South America, he would have written 
to his "dear Bess," to Waterhouse, and to Flinders. 
The latter, in 1814, wrote of him as "alas, now no 
more." There is on record a report that he was seen 
alive in South America in that year, but the story is 
doubtful. He was a man full of affectionate loyalty to 
his friends, and it is not conceivable that he would have 
left them without news of him if any channel of com- 
munication had been open, as would have been the case 
had he been at liberty as late as 1814. His father-in-law 
made enquiries, but failed to obtain news. The report 
of the Harrington was probably true, but beyond that 
we really have no information upon which we can 
depend. The internal history of Spanish America has 
been very scantily investigated, and it is quite 
possible that even yet some diligent student of archives 
may find, some day, particulars concerning the fate of 
this brave and adventurous spirit. 

The disappearance of Bass's letters to his mother is 
a misfortune which the student of Australian history 
must deplore. He was observant, shrewd, an untiring 
traveller, and an entertaining correspondent. He 
probably related to his mother, to whom he wrote fre- 
quently, the story of his excursions and experiences, and 
the historical value of all that he wrote would be very 
great. The letters, said the Lincoln friend, were long, 
"containing full accounts of his discoveries." His 
mother treasured them till she died, when they came 
into the possession of a Miss Calder. She kept them 
in a box, and used occasionally to amuse herself by read- 
ing them. But some time before 1852 Miss Calder 
went to the box to look at them again, and found that 


they had disappeared. Whether she had lent them to 
some person who had failed to return them, or had mis- 
laid them, is unknown. It is possible that they may 
still be in existence in some dusty cupboard in England, 
and that we may even yet be gratified by an examination 
of documents which would assuredly enable us to under- 
stand more of the noble soul of George Bass. 

It has been mentioned that Flinders and Bass did 
not meet again after the voyage of the Norfolk and 
Bass's return to England. Though Sydney was the 
base of both Flinders in the Investigator and Bass in 
the Venus in 1802-3, they always had the ill-luck to miss 
each other. Bass was at Tahiti while Flinders lay in 
port from May 9th to July 21st, 1802. He returned 
in November, and left once more on his final voyage in 
February, 1803. Flinders arrived in Sydney again, 
after his exploration of the Gulf of Carpentaria, in 
June, 1803. A farewell letter from him to h»s friend 
is quoted in a later chapter. 

Chapter XL 

Two more incidents in the career of Flinders will con- 
cern us before we deal with his important later voyages. 
The first of these is only worth mentioning for the 
light it throws upon the character of the man. In 
March, 1799, he sat as a member of a court of criminal 
judicature in Sydney, for the trial of Isaac Nichols, who 
was charged with receiving a basket of tobacco knowing 
it to have been stolen. The case aroused passionate 
interest at the time. People in the settlement took 
sides upon it, as upon a matter of acute party politics, 
and the Governor was hotly at variance with the Judge 
Advocate, the chief judicial officer. 

Nichols had been a convict, but his conduct was 
good, and he was chosen to be chief overseer of a gang 
employed in labour of various kinds. On the expira- 
tion of his sentence, he acquired a small farm, and by 
means of sobriety and industry built himself a comfort- 
able house. Through his very prosperity he became 
"an object to be noticed," as the Governor wrote, and 
by reason of his diligent usefulness securing him official 
employment, "he stood in the way of others." In 
Hunter's opinion, the ruin of Nichols was deliberately 
planned; and he was convicted on what the Governor 
believed to be false and malicious evidence. 

The striking feature of the trial was that the Court 
(consisting of seven members — three naval officers and 
three officers of the New South Wales Corps, presided 
over by the Judge Advocate) was sharply divided in 
opinion. The three naval men, Flinders, Waterhouse, 
and Lieutenant Kent, were convinced of the accused 



man's innocence; the three military men, with the Judge 
Advocate, voted for his conviction. There was thus 
a majority against Nichols; but the Governor, believing 
that an injustice was being done, suspended the execu- 
tion of the sentence, and submitted the papers to the 
Secretary of State. Bass came into the matter in the 
month after the trial, as a member of a Court of In- 
quiry into the allegation that certain persons had carried 
the tobacco to Nichols' house with the object of implica- 
ing him. 

The only point that need concern us here, is that 
Flinders wrote a memorandum analysing the evidence 
with minute care, in justification of his belief in the 
prisoner's innocence. It was a skilfully drawn document, 
and it exhibits Flinders in a light which enhances 
our respect for him, as the strong champion of an 
accused man whom he believed to be wronged. In the 
result, the Crown granted a pardon to Nichols; but this 
did not arrive till 1802, so tardy was justice in getting 
itself done. Apart from Flinders' share in it, the case 
is interesting as revealing the strained relations existing 
between the principal officials in the colony at the time. 
The Judge Advocate was a bitter enemy of the 
Governor, and the very administration of the law, affect- 
ing the liberties of the people, was tinctured by these 

It is pleasant to turn from so grimy a subject to the 
work for which Flinders' tastes and talents peculiarly 
fitted him. The explorations which he had hitherto 
accomplished were sufficient to convince Hunter that he 
had under him an officer from whom good work could 
be expected, and, the Reliance not being required for 
service, he readily acquiesced when Flinders proposed 
that he should take the Norfolk northward, to Moreton 
Bay, the "Glasshouse Bay" of Cook, and Hervey Bay, 
east of Bundaberg. On this voyage he was accompanied 


by his younger brother, Samuel Flinders. He also took 
with him an aboriginal named Bongaree, "whose good 
disposition and manly conduct had attracted my 

He sailed on July 8th. The task did not occupy 
much time, for the sloop was back in Sydney by August 
20th. The results were disappointing. It had been 
hoped to find large rivers, and by means of them to 
penetrate the interior of the country; but none were 

Flinders missed the Clarence, though he actually 
anchored off its entrance. Nor did he find the Brisbane, 
though, ascending the Glasshouse Mountains, he saw 
indications of a river, which he could not enter with 
the Norfolk on account of the intricacy of the channel 
and the shortness of the time available. 

Uneasiness of mind respecting the condition of the 
sloop must have had much to do with the missing of 
the rivers. She sprung a leak two days out of Port 
Jackson, and this was "a serious cause of alarm," the 
more so as grains of maize, with which the Norfolk had 
been previously loaded, were constantly choking up the 
pump. Weather conditions, also, did not favour taking 
the vessel close inshore on her northward course, and 
it would have been almost impossible to detect the 
mouths of the New South Wales rivers without a close 
scrutiny of the coastline. Those considerations are 
quite sufficient, when duly weighed, to account for the 
omissions. It certainly was a rash statement, after so 
imperfect an examination, that "however mortifying the 
conviction might be, it was then an ascertained fact that 
no river of importance intersected the east coast between 
the 24th and 39th degrees of south latitude." But it 
is equally certain that he could not have found these 
rivers with the means at his disposal. They could not 
well have been observed from the deck of a vessel off 


the coast.* A closer inspection of the shore-line was 
required. In fact, the rivers were not found by sea- 
ward exploration; they were discovered by inland 

The most interesting features of the voyage lay in 
the meeting with aboriginals in Moreton Bay. Some 
of the incidents were amusing, though at one time there 
seemed to be danger of a serious encounter. Flinders 
went ashore to meet a party of the natives, and en- 
deavoured to establish friendly relations with them. 
But as he was leaving, one of them threw a spear. 
Flinders snatched up his gun and aimed at the offender, 
but the flint being wet missed fire. A second snap of the 
trigger also failed, but on a third trial the gun went off, 
though nobody was hurt. Flinders thought that it might 
obviate future mischief if he gave the blacks an idea of 
his power, so he fired at a man who was hiding behind 
a tree; but without doing him any harm. The sound 
of the gun caused the greatest consternation among the 
natives, and the small party of white men had no more 
serious trouble with them while they were in the bay. 
Flinders was "satisfied of the great influence which the 
use of a superior power has in savages to create respect 
and render their communications friendly"; but he was 
fortunately able to keep on good terms without resort 
to severity. 

An effort to tickle the aboriginal sense of humour 
was a failure. Two of the crew who were Scotch, com- 
menced to dance a reel for the amusement of the blacks. 
"For want of music," it is related, "they made a very 
bad performance, which was contemplated by the 
natives without much amusement or curiosity." The 
joke, like Flinders' gun, missed fire. There have been, 
it is often alleged, other occasions when jokes made by 

* See Coote, History of Queensland, I., 7, and Lang, Cooksland, 
p. 17. 


Scotsmen have not achieved a shining success; and we 
do well to respect the intention while we deplore the 
waste of effort. 

An example of cunning which did not succeed 
occurred shortly after the first landing. Flinders was 
wearing a cabbage-tree hat, for which a native had a 
fancy. The fellow took a long stick with a hook at the end 
of it, and, laughing and talking to divert attention from 
his purpose, endeavoured to take the hat from the com- 
mander's head. His detection created much laughter; 
as did that of another black with long arms, who tried 
to creep up to snatch the hat, but was afraid to approach 
too near. The account which Collins, writing from 
Flinders' notes, gave of the Queensland natives seen at 
Moreton Bay, is graphic but hardly attractive. Two 
paragraphs about their musical attainments and their 
general appearance will bear quotation: — 

"These people, like the natives of Port Jackson, 
having fallen to the low pitch of their voices, re- 
commenced their song at the octave, which was accom- 
panied by slow and not ungraceful motions of the body 
and limbs, their hands being held up in a supplicating 
posture; and the tone and manner of their song and 
gestures seemed to bespeak the goodwill and forbear- 
ance of their auditors. Observing that they were 
attentively listened to, they each selected one of our 
people and placed his mouth close to his ear, as if to 
produce a greater effect, or, it might be, to teach them 
the song, which their silent attention might seem to ex- 
press a desire to learn." As a recompense for the 
amusement they had afforded him Flinders gave them 
some worsted caps, and a pair of blanket trousers, with 
which they seemed well pleased. Several other natives 
now made their appearance; and it was some time before 
they could overcome their dread of approaching the 
strangers with the firearms; but, encouraged by the 


three who were with them, they came up, and a general 
song and dance was commenced. Their singing was 
not confined to one air; they gave three. 

"Of those who came last, three were remarkable for 
the largeness of their heads, and one, whose face was 
very rough, had much more the appearance of a baboon 
than of a human being. He was covered with oily soot; 
his hair matted with filth; his visage, even among his 
fellows, uncommonly ferocious; and his very large 
mouth, beset with teeth of every hue between black, 
white, green and yellow, sometimes presented a smile 
which might make anyone shudder." 

The Norfolk remained fifteen days in Moreton Bay. 
The judgment that Flinders formed of it was that it 
was "so full of shoals that he could not attempt to point 
out any passage that would lead a ship into it without 
danger." The east side was not sounded, and he was 
of opinion that if a good navigable channel existed it 
would be found there. His visit to Hervey Bay, 
further north, did not lead to any interesting observa- 
tions. He left there on his return voyage on August 
7th, and reached Port Jackson at dusk on the 20th. 

Chapter XII. 

Flinders sailed from Port Jackson for England in the 
Reliance on March 3rd, 1800. The old ship was in 
such a bad condition that Governor Hunter "judged it 
proper to order her home while she may be capable of 
performing the voyage." She carried despatches, 
which Captain Waterhouse was directed to throw over- 
board in the event of meeting with an enemy's ship of 
superior force and being unable to effect his escape. She 
lived through a tempestuous voyage, making nine or ten 
inches of water per hour, according to the carpenter's 
report, and providing plenty of pumping exercise for a 
couple of convict stowaways who emerged from hiding 
two days out of Sydney. At St. Helena, reached at the 
end of May, company was joined with four East India 
ships, and off Ireland H.M.S. Cerberus took charge or 
the convoy till the arrival at Portsmouth on August 

When Flinders left England six years before, he was 
a midshipman. He passed the examination qualifying 
him to become lieutenant at the Cape of Good Hope 
in 1797, and was appointed provisionally to that rank 
on the return of the Reliance to Sydney from the South 
African voyage in that year. The prompt confirma- 
tion of his promotion by the admiralty he attributed to 
the kind interest of Admiral Pasley. 

When he quitted his ship at Deptford in October, 
1800, he was a man of mark. His name was honour- 
ably known to the elders of his profession, whilst he was 
esteemed by men concerned with geography, navigation, 
and kindred branches of study, for the importance of 



the work he had done, and for the thorough scientific 
spirit manifested in it. 

Chief among those who recognised his quality was 
Sir Joseph Banks, the learned and wealthy squire who 
was ever ready to be to zealous men of science a friend, 
a patron, and an influence. Banks was, indeed, memor- 
able for the men and work he helped, rather than for 
his own original contributions to knowledge. During 
his presidency of the Royal Society, from 1777 to 1820 
— a long time for one man to occupy the principal place 
in the most distinguished learned body in the world — 
he not only encouraged, but promoted and directed, a 
remarkable radiation of research work, and was the 
accessible friend of every man of ability concerned in 
extending the bounds of enquiry into phenomena. 

Banks took a special interest in the young navigator, 
who was a native of his own bit of England, Lincoln- 
shire. He knew well what a large field for geo- 
graphical investigation there was in Australia, and 
recognised that Flinders was the right man to do the 
work. Banks had always foreseen the immense possi- 
bilities of the country; he was the means of sending out 
the naturalists George Caley, Robert Brown, and Allan 
Cunningham, to study its natural products. That he 
was quick to recognise the sterling capacity of Matthew 
Flinders constitutes his principal claim to our immediate 
attention. The spirit of our age is rather out of 
sympathy with the attitude of patronage, which, as must 
be confessed, it gratified Banks to assume; but at all 
events it was, in this instance, patronage of the only 
tolerable sort, that which helps an able man to fulfil 
himself and serve his kind. 

Before he went to sea again, Flinders was married 
(April 1801) to Miss Ann Chappell, stepdaughter 
of the Rev. William Tyler, rector of Brothertoft, near 
Boston. She was a sailor's daughter, her own father 


* #^ 



having died while in command of a ship out of Hull, 
engaged in the Baltic trade. It is probable that there 
was an attachment between the pair before Flinders left 
England in 1794; for during the Norfolk expedition 
in 1798 he had named a smooth round hill in Kent's 
group Mount Chappell, and had called a small cluster 
of islands the Chappell Isles. He does not tell us why 
they were so named, as was his usual practice. He 
merely speaks of them as "this small group to which the 
name of Chappell Isles is affixed in the chart." But 
a tender little touch of sentiment may creep in, even in 
the making of charts; and we cannot have or wish to 
have, any doubt as to the reason in this case. 

In his Observations, published in the year of his 
marriage, Flinders remarks (p. 24) that the hill "had 
received the name of Mount Chappell in February, 
1798, and the name is since extended to the isles which 
lie in its immediate neighbourhood." The fact that 
the name was given in 1798, indicates that a kindly feel- 
ing, to say the least of it, was entertained for Miss 
Chappell before Flinders left England in 1795. The 
lover in As You Like It carved his lady's name on trees : 

" O Rosalind, these trees shall be my books, 
And in their barks my thoughts I'll character." 

Here we find our young navigator writing his lady's 
name on the map. It is rather an uncommon symptom 
of a very common complaint. 

Miss Chappell and her sister, the sisters of 
Flinders, and the young ladies of the Franklin family, 
were a group of affectionate friends who lived in the 
same neighbourhood, and were constantly together. 
The boys of the families were brothers to all the girls, 
who were all sisters to them. Matthew on the Reliance 
wrote to them letters intended to read by all, address- 
ing them as "my charming sisters." In one of these 


epistles he told the girls: "never will there be a more 
happy soul than when I return. O, may the Almighty- 
spare me all those dear friends without whom my joy 
would be turned into sorrow and mourning." But 
that he nourished the recollection of Ann Chappell 
in his heart with especial warmth is apparent from a 
letter he wrote to her very shortly after the Reliance 
returned to England (September 25th, 1800) :* "You 
are one of those friends," he assured her, "whom I con- 
sider it indispensably necessary to see. I should be 
glad to have some little account of your movements, 
where you reside, and with whom, that my motions 
may be regulated accordingly. . . . You see that I 
make everything subservient to business. Indeed, my 
dearest friend, this time seems to be a very critical 
period of my life. I have long been absent — have 
done services abroad that were not expected, but 
which seem to be thought a good deal of. I have more 
and greater friends than before, and this seems to be the 
moment that their exertions may be most serviceable to 
me. I may now perhaps make a bold dash forward, 
or may remain a poor lieutenant all my life." And he 
ended this letter, which Miss Chappell would not fail 
to read "between the lines," by assuring "my dear friend 
Annette," that "with the greatest sincerity, I am her 
most affectionate friend and brother, Matthew Flinders." 
From this point the comforting understanding 
between the two young people developed in ways as to 
which there is no evidence in correspondence; but 
shortly after Flinders received promotion he must have 
proposed marriage. He wrote a short time afterwards 
in these terms : 

"H.M.S. Investigator, at the Nore, 

"My dearest friend, " A P rI1 6 ' 180L 

"Thou hast asked me if there is a possibility of our 

* Flinders' Papers. 


living together. I think I see a probability of living 
with a moderate share of comfort. Till now I was not 
certain of being able to fit myself out clear of the world. 
I have now done it, and have accommodation on board 
the Investigator, in which as my wife a woman may, 
with love to assist her, make herself happy. This pros- 
pect has recalled all the tenderness which I have so 
sedulously endeavoured to banish. I am sent for to 
London, where I shall be from the 9th to the 19th, or 
perhaps longer. If thou wilt meet me there, this hand 
shall be thine for ever. If thou hast sufficient love and 
courage, say to Mr. and Mrs. Tyler* that I require 
nothing more with thee than a sufficient stock of clothes 
and a small sum to answer the increased expenses that 
will necessarily and immediately come upon me ; as well 
for living on board as providing for it at Port Jackson; 
for whilst I am employed in the most dangerous part 
of my duty, thou shalt be placed under some friendly 
roof there. I need not, nor at this time have I time 
to enter into a detail of my income and prospects. It 
will, I trust, be sufficient for me to say that I see a for- 
tune growing under me to meet increasing expenses. 
I only want a fair start, and my life for it, we will do 
well and be happy. I will write further to-morrow, 
but shall most anxiously expect thy answer at 86 Fleet 
Street, London, on my visit on Friday; and, I trust, 
thy presence immediately afterwards. I have only time 
to add that most anxiously I am, Most sincerely thine, 

Matthew Flinders." 

He appended a postscript which covertly alludes 
to the manner in which Sir Joseph Banks might be 
expected to regard the marriage on the eve of com- 
mencing the new voyage: "It will be much better to 
keep this matter entirely secret. There are many rea- 

* Her mother and stepfather. 


sons for it yet, and I have also a powerful one: I do 
not know how my great friends might like it.' 

But, taking all the risks in this direction, he snatched 
the first opportunity that presented itself to hurry down 
to Lincolnshire, get married, and bring his bride up to 
London, stuffing into his boot, for safe keeping, a roll 
of bank notes given to him by Mr. Tyler at the moment 
of farewell. 

In a letter* to his cousin Henrietta, he relates how 
hurriedly the knot matrimonial was at length tied, on 
the 17th of April: 

"Everything was agreed to in a very handsome 
manner, and just at this time I was called up to town and 
found that I might be spared a few days from thence. I 
set off on Wednesday evening from town, arrived next 
evening at Spilsby, was married next morning,f which 
was Friday; on Saturday we went to Donington, on Sun- 
day reached Huntingdon, and on Monday were in town. 
Next morning I presented myself before Sir Joseph 
Banks with a grave face as if nothing had happened, 
and then went on with my business as usual. We stayed 
in town till the following Sunday, and came on board 
the Investigator next day, and here we have remained 

* Flinders' Papers. 

f Captain F. J. Bayldon, of the Nautical Academy, Sydney, 
tells me an interesting story about the Flinders-Chappell 
marriage registration. His father was rector of Partney, 
Lincolnshire, a village lying two or three miles from Spilsby. 
When the Captain and his brothers were boys, they found in 
the rectory a large book, such as was used for parish registers. 
It was apparently unused. They asked their father if they might 
have the blank pages for drawing paper, and he gave them per- 
mission. But they found upon a single page, a few marriage 
entries, and one of these was the marriage of Matthew Flinders 
to Ann Chappell. Captain Bayldon, a student of navigation then 
as he has been ever since, knew Flinders' name at once, and took the 
book to his father. The marriage was celebrated at Partney, where 
the Tylers lived. 


ever since, a few weeks on shore and a day spent on the 
Essex side of the Thames excepted." 

In a letter* written on the day of the marriage to 
Elizabeth Flinders the bride's fluttered and mixed 
emotions were apparent. At this time she believed 
that she was to make the voyage to Australia in the 
Investigator with her husband, and hardly knew 
whether the happiness of her new condition or the 
regretful prospect of a long farewell to her circle of 
friends prevailed most in her heart. 

"My beloved Betsy, _ "April 17th, 1801. 

u Thou wilt be much surprised to hear of this sudden 
affair; indeed I scarce believe it myself, tho' I have this 
very morning given my hand at the altar to him I have 
ever highly esteemed, and it affords me no small pleasure 
that I am now a part, tho' a distant one, of thy family, 
my Betsy. It grieves me much thou art so distant 
from me. Thy society would have greatly cheered me. 
Thou wilt to-day pardon me if I say but little. I am 
scarce able to coin one sentence or to write intelligibly. 
It pains me to agony when I indulge the thought for a 
moment that I must leave all I value on earth, save one, 
alas, perhaps for ever. Ah, my Betsy, but I dare not, 
must not, think [that]. Therefore, farewell, farewell. 
May the great God of Heaven preserve thee and those 
thou lovest, oh, everlastingly. Adieu, dear darling girl; 
love as ever, though absent and far removed from your 

poor Annette." 

We are afforded a confidential insight into Mrs. 
Flinders' opinion of her husband in a letter from her to 
another girl friend. It was written after the marriage, 

•Mitchell Library MSS. 


and when Matthew was again at sea, prosecuting that 
voyage from which he was not to return for over nine 
years. "I don't admire want of firmness in a man. I 
love courage and determination in the male character. 
Forgive me, dear Fanny, but insipids I never did 
like, and having not long ago tasted such deightful 
society I have now a greater contempt than in former 
days for that cast of character." An "insipid" Ann 
Chappell certainly had not married, and she found in 
Matthew Flinders no lack of the courage and determina- 
tion she admired. 

A second marriage contracted by the elder Matthew 
Flinders, connecting his family with the Franklins, had 
an important influence upon the life of another young 
sailor who had commenced his career in the Navy in the 
previous year. The Franklin family, which sprang 
from the village of Sibsey (about six miles N.E. of 
Boston), was now resident at Spilsby. At the time of 
the Flinders-Chappell wedding, young John Franklin 
was serving on the Polyphemus, and had only a few days 
previously (April 1) taken part in the battle of Copen- 
hagen. In the ordinary course of things he would, 
there can hardly be a doubt, have followed his pro- 
fession along normal lines. His virile intellect and 
resourceful courage would probably have won him 
eminence, but it is not likely that he would have entered 
upon that career of exploration which shed so much 
lustre on his name, and in the end found him a grave 
beneath the immemorial snows of the frozen north. It 
was by Flinders that young Franklin was diverted into 
the glorious path of discovery; from Flinders that he 
learnt the strictly scientific part of navigation. "It is 
very reasonable for us to infer," writes one of Frank- 
lin's biographers* "that it was in all probability in ex- 

* Admiral Markham, Life of Sir John Franklin, p. 43. 


ploring miles of practically unknown coastline, and in 
surveying hitherto undiscovered bays, reefs, and islands 
in the southern hemisphere, that John Franklin's mind 
became imbued with that ardent love of geographical 
research which formed such a marked and prominent 
feature in his future professional career. Flinders was 
the example, and Australian exploration was the school, 
that created one of our greatest Arctic navigators and 
one of the most eminent geographers of his day." 

Another matter with which Flinders was occupied 
during his stay in England was the preparation of a 
small publication dealing with his recent researches. It 
was entitled "Observations on the coasts of Van Die- 
men's Land, on Bass's Strait and its Islands, and on 
parts of the coasts of New South Wales, intended to 
accompany the charts of the late discoveries in those 
countries, by Matthew Flinders, second lieutenant of 
His Majesty's ship Reliance." It consisted of thirty- 
five quarto pages, issued without a wrapper, and 
stitched like a large pamphlet. John Nichols, of Soho, 
was the publisher, but some copies were issued with the 
imprint of Arrowsmith, the publisher of charts. Very 
few copies now remain, and the little book, which is one 
of the rare things of bibliography, is not to be found 
even in many important libraries. 

Flinders dedicated the issue to Sir Joseph Banks. 
"Your zealous exertions to promote geographical and 
nautical knowledge, your encouragement of men em- 
ployed in the cultivation of the sciences that tend to this 
improvement, and the countenance you have been 
pleased to show me in particular, embolden me to lay 
the following observations before you." Generally 
speaking, the Observations contain matter that was 
afterwards embodied in the larger Voyage to Terra 
Australis, and taken from reports that have been used 
in the preceding pages. The special purpose of the 


book was to be of use to navigators who might sail in 
Australian waters, and it is therefore full of particulars 
likely to guide them. He pointed out that there might 
be some errors in the longitude records of the Norfolk 
voyage because "no time-keepers could be procured for 
this expedition," but he pointed out that the survey was 
made with great care. "The sloop was kept close to 
the shore, and brought back every morning within sight 
of the same point it had been hauled off during the pre- 
ceding evening, by which means the chain of angles was 
never broken." This was, as will be seen later, the 
method employed on the more important voyage about 
to be undertaken. 

The task that mainly occupied his attention during 
these few months in England, was the making of pre- 
parations for a voyage of discovery intended to com- 
plete the exploration of the coasts of Australia. It has 
already been remarked that the initiative in regard to 
the Francis, and Norfolk explorations sprang from 
Flinders' own eager desire, and not from the governing 
authorities. Precisely the same occurred in the case of 
the far more important Investigator voyage. He did 
not wait for something to turn up. Immediately after 
his arrival in England, he formulated a plan, pointed 
out the sphere of investigation to which attention ought 
to be directed, and approached the proper authorities. 
He wrote to Sir Joseph Banks, "offering my services to 
explore minutely the whole of the coasts, as well those 
which were imperfectly known as those entirely un- 
known, provided the Government would provide me 
with a proper ship for the purpose. I did not address 
myself in vain to this zealous promoter of science; and 
Earl Spencer, then First Lord of the Admiralty, enter- 
ing warmly into the views of his friend, obtained the 
approbation of his Majesty, and immediately set out a 
ship that could be spared from the present demands of 


war, which Great Britain then waged with most of the 
Powers of Europe."* 

Lord Spencer's prompt and warm acquiescence in 
the proposition is not less to be noted than the friendly 
interest of Banks. His administration of the 
Admiralty in Pitt's Government was distinguished by 
his selection of Nelson as the admiral to frustrate the 
schemes of the French in sea warfare; and it stands as 
an additional tribute to his sagacity that he at once 
recognised Flinders to be the right man to maintain the 
prowess of British seamanship in discovery. 

Three reasons made the Government the more dis- 
posed to equip an expedition for the purpose. The first 
was that in June, 1800, L. G. Otto, the representative of 
the French Republic in London, applied for a passport 
for two discovery ships which were being despatched to 
the south seas. French men of science had for many 
years interested themselves in the investigation of these 
unknown portions of the globe. The expeditions of 
Laperouse (1785-8) and of Dentrecasteaux (1791-6) 
were evidence of their concern with the problems await- 
ing elucidation. The professors of the Museum in 
Paris were eager that collections of minerals and plants 
should be made in the southern hemisphere. The 
Institute of France was led by keen men of science, one 
of whom, the Comte de Fleurieu, had prepared the 
instructions for the two previous voyages. They had 
found a warm friend to research in Louis XVI., and the 
fall of the monarchy did not diminish their anxiety that 
France should win honour from pursuing the enquiry 
They represented to Napoleon, then First Consul, the 
utility of undertaking another voyage, and his authori- 
sation was secured in May. A passport was granted 
by Earl Spencer when Otto made the application, but 

* Flinders' Papers. 


there was a suspicion that the French Government was 
influenced by motives of policy lying deeper than the 
ostensible desire to promote discovery. 

Secondly, the East India Company was concerned 
lest the French should establish themselves somewhere 
on the coast of Australia, and, with a base of operations 
there, menace the Company's trade. 

Thirdly, Sir Joseph Banks, after conversations with 
Flinders and an examination of his charts, saw the im- 
portance of the work remaining to be done, and used his 
influence with the Admiralty to authorise a ship to be 
detailed for the purpose. 

Thus imperial policy, trade interests and scientific 
ardour combined to procure the equipment of a new 
research expedition. In view of the fact that the 
Admiralty became officially aware in June of the inten- 
tions of the French, it cannot be said that they were 
precipitate in making their own plans; for it was not 
until December 12 that they issued their orders. 

The vessel allotted for the employment was a 334- 
ton sloop, built in the north of England for the 
merchant service. She had been purchased by the 
Government for naval work, and, under the name of the 
Xenophon, had been employed in convoying merchant 
vessels in the Channel. Her name was changed to the 
Investigator, her bottom w r as re-coppered, the plating 
being put on "two streaks higher than before," and she 
was equipped for a three years' voyage. Flinders took 
command of her at Sheerness on January 25th, 1801. 
He was promoted to the rank of commander on the 
16th of the following month. 

The renovated ship was good enough to look at, and 
she commended herself to Flinders' eye as being the sort 
of vessel best fitted for the work in contemplation. In 


form she "nearly resembled the description of vessel 
recommended by Captain Cook as best calculated for 
voyages of discovery." But, though comfortable, she 
was old and unsound. Patching and caulking merely 
plugged up defects which the bufferings of rough seas 
soon revealed. But she was the best ship the Admiralty 
was able to spare at the time. Long before she had 
completed her outward voyage, however, the senility 
of the Investigator had made itself uncomfortably 
evident. Writing of the leaks experienced on the run 
down to the Cape, Flinders said: — 

"The leakiness of the ship increased with the con- 
tinuance of the southwest winds, and at the end of a 
week amounted to five inches of water an hour. It 
seemed, however, that the leaks were above the 
water's edge, for on tacking to the westward 
they were diminished to two inches. This work- 
ing of the oakum out of the seams indicated a 
degree of weakness which, in a ship destined to 
encounter every hazard, could not be contemplated 
without uneasiness. The very large ports, formerly cut 
in the sides to receive thirty-two pound carronades, 
joined to what I have been able to collect from the dock- 
yard officers, had given me an unfavourable opinion of 
her strength; and this was now but too much con- 
firmed. Should it be asked why representations were 
not made and a stronger vessel procured, I answer that 
the exigencies of the navy were such at that time, that 
I was given to understand no better ship could be spared 
from the service ; and my anxiety to complete the investi- 
gation of the coasts of Terra Australis did not admit of 
refusing the one offered." 

The history of maritime discovery is strewn with 
rotten ships. Certainly if the great navigators, before 
venturing to face the unknown, had waited to be pro- 


vided with vessels fit to make long voyages, the pro- 
gress of research would have been much slower than was 
the case. It sounds like hyperbole to say that, when 
pitch and planks failed, these gallant seamen stopped 
their leaks with hope and ardour; but really, something 
like that is pretty near the truth. 

The fitting out of the Investigator proceeded busily 
during January and February, 1801. The Admiralty 
was liberal in its allowances. Indeed, the equipment 
was left almost entirely to Banks and Flinders. The 
commander "obtained permission to fit her out as I 
should judge necessary, without reference to the supplies 
usually allotted to vessels of the same class." The ex- 
tent to which the Admiralty was guided by Banks is 
indicated in a memorandum by the Secretary, Evan 
Nepean, penned in April. Banks wrote "Is my pro- 
posal for an alteration in the undertaking in the 
Investigator approved?" Nepean replied "Any pro- 
posal you may make will be approved; the whole is left 
entirely to your decision." 

In addition to plentiful supplies and special pro- 
vision for a large store of water, the Investigator 
carried an interesting assortment of "gauds, nick-nacks, 
trifles," to serve as presents to native peoples with whom 
it was desired to cultivate friendly relations. The list 
included useful articles as well as glittering toys, and is 
a curious document as illustrating a means by which 
civilisation sought to tickle the barbarian into com- 
plaisance. Flinders carried for this purpose 500 
pocket-knives, 500 looking-glasses, 100 combs, 200 
strings of blue, red, white and yellow beads, 100 pairs 
of ear-rings, 200 finger rings, 1000 yards of blue and 
red gartering, 100 red caps, 100 small blankets, 100 
yards of thin red baize, 100 yards of coloured linen, 
1000 needles, five pounds of red thread, 200 files, 100 
shoemakers' knives, 300 pairs of scissors, 100 hammers, 


50 axes, 300 hatchets, a quantity of other samples of 
ironmongery, a number of medals with King George's 
head imprinted upon them, and some new copper coins. 

It is a curious assortment,, but it may be observed 
that the materials, as well as the method of ingratiation, 
were very much the same with the earlier as with the 
later navigators. An early instance occurs in Rene 
Laudonniere's account of his relations with the natives 
of Florida in 1565 :* "I gave them certaine small trifles, 
which were little knives or tablets of glasse, wherein 
the image of King Charles the Ninth was drawen very 
lively ... I recompensed them with certaine hatchets, 
knives, beades of glasse, combes and looking-glasses." 

The crew of the Investigator was selected with 
particular care. Flinders desired to carry none but 
young sailors of good character. He was given per- 
mission to take men from the Zealand, and he explained 
to those who volunteered the nature of the service, and 
its probably severe and protracted character. The readi- 
ness with which men came forward gave him much 

"Upon one occasion, when eleven volunteers were 
to be received from the Zealand, a strong instance was 
given of the spirit of enterprise prevalent amongst 
British seamen. About three hundred disposable men 
were called up, and placed on one part of the deck; and 
after the nature of the voyage, with the number of men 
wanted, had been explained to them, those who volun- 
teered were desired to go over to the opposite side. The 
candidates were no less than two hundred and fifty, 
most of whom sought with eagerness to be received ; and 
the eleven who were chosen proved, with one single 
exception, to be worthy of the preference they 

*Hakluyt's Voyages (edition of 1904), Vol. IX., pp. 31 and 49. 


Of the whole crew (and the total ship's company 
numbered 83) only two caused any trouble to the com- 
mander. As these two "required more severity in re- 
ducing to good order than I wished to exercise in 
a service of this nature," when the Investigator reached 
the Cape, Flinders arranged with the Admiral there, Sii 
Roger Curtis, to exchange them — as well as two others 
who from lack of sufficient strength were not suitable — 
for four sailors upon the flagship, who made a pressing 
application to go upon a voyage of discovery. Thus 
purged of a very few refractories and inefficients, the 
ship's company was a happy, loyal and healthy crew, of 
whom the commander was justifiably proud. 

The officers and scientific staff were chosen with a 
view to making the voyage fruitful in utility. The first 
lieutenant, Robert Fowler, had served on the ship when 
she was the Xenophon. He was a Lincolnshire man, 
hailing from Horncastle, and had been a schoolfellow 
of Banks. But it was not through Sir Joseph's influence 
that he was selected. Flinders made his acquaintance 
while the refitting of the vessel was in progress, and 
found him desirous of making the voyage. As his 
former captain spoke well of him, his services were 
accepted. Samuel Ward Flinders went as second 
lieutenant, and there were six midshipmen, of whom 
John Franklin was one. 

Originally it was intended that Mungo Park, the 
celebrated African traveller, who was at this time in 
England looking round for employment, should go to 
Australia on the Investigator, and act as naturalist. But 
no definite engagement was entered into; the post re- 
mained vacant, and a Portuguese exile living in London, 
Correa de Sena, introduced to Banks a young Scottish 
botanist who desired to go, describing him as one "fitted 
to pursue an object with a staunch and a cold mind." 
Robert Brown was then not quite twenty-seven years of 


age. Like the gusty swashbuckler, Dugald Dalgetty, 
he had been educated at the Marischal College, Aber- 
deen. For a few years he served as ensign and assist- 
ant surgeon of a Scottish regiment, the Fife Fencibles. 
Always a keen botanist, he found a ready friend in 
Banks, who promised to recommend him "for the pur- 
pose of exploring the natural history, amongst other 
things." His salary was £420 a year, and he earned it 
by admirable service. Brown remained in Australia 
for two years after the discovery voyage, and his great 
Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae, which won the 
praise of Humboldt, is a classic monument to the extent 
and value of his researches. 

William Westall was appointed landscape and 
figure draftsman to the expedition at a salary of £315 
per annum. The nine fine engravings which adorn the 
Voyage to Terra Anstralis are his work. He was 
but a youth of nineteen when he made this voyage. 
Afterwards he attained repute as a landscape painter, 
and was elected as Associate of the Royal Academy. 
One hundred and thirty-eight of his drawings made on 
the Investigator are preserved. 

Ferdinand Bauer was appointed botanical drafts- 
man to the expedition at a salary of £315. He was an 
Austrian, forty years of age, an enthusiast in his work, 
and a man of uncommon industry. He made 1,600 
botanical drawings which, in Robert Brown's opinion, 
were "for beauty, accuracy and completion of detail un- 
equalled in this or in any other country in Europe." 
Bauer's Illustrationes Florae Novae Hollandiae, pub- 
lished in 1814, consisted of plates which were drawn, 
engraved and coloured by his own hand. Flinders 
formed a very high opinion of the capacity of both 
Brown and Bauer. "It is fortunate for science," he 
wrote to Banks "that two men of such assiduity and 


abilities have been selected; their application is beyond 
what I have been accustomed to see." 

Peter Good, appointed gardener to the expedition at 
a salary of £105, was a foreman at the Kew Gardens 
when he was selected for this service. Brown found 
him a valuable assistant, and an indefatigable worker. 
He died in Sydney in June, 1803, from dysentery con- 
tracted at Timor. Of John Allen, engaged as a miner 
at a salary of £105, nothing is known. 

John Crossley was engaged to sail as astronomer, 
at a salary of £420, but he did not accompany the 
Investigator further than the Cape of Good Hope, 
where his health broke down, and he returned to Eng- 
land. The instruments with which he had been fur- 
nished by the Board of Longitude were, however, left 
on board, and Flinders undertook to do his work in co- 
operation with his brother Samuel, who had been assist- 
ing Crossley, and was able to take charge of the 
astronomical clocks and records. 

The interest taken by the East India Company's 
Court of Directors in the expedition was manifested in 
their vote of £600 for the table money of the officers 
and staff.* They gave this sum "from the voyage being 
within the limits of the Company's charter, from the 
expectation of the examinations and discoveries proving 
advantageous, and partly, as they said" — so Flinders 

* The East Tndia Company, through its Court of Directors, 
actually voted £1,200 in May, 1801 ; but only £600 of this sum was 
paid at the commencement of the voyage. The remainder was to 
be paid to the commander and officers as a reward if they success- 
fully accomplished their task. Flinders' mss. letter-book contains 
a copy of a letter dated November 14, 1810, wherein he reminds the 
Company of their promise. I have found no record of the payment 
of the remaining £600, but Flinders' Journal shows him to have 
dined with the directors a few weeks after the letter was sent, and a 
little later the Journal contains a record of a merry evening 
spent together by Flinders -and a party of his old Investigator ship- 
mates. It is a fair assumption that the money was divided up on 
that occason. 


Who, as First Lord of the Admiralty, despatched. Flinders on his 

discovery voyage in the Investigator. 

{Photographed, by permission of Lord Spencer, from the painting 
by Copley, at Althorp, Northamptonshire.) 


modestly observed — "for my former services." The 
Company's charter gave to it a complete monopoly of 
trade with the east and the Pacific, and it was therefore 
interested in the finding of . fresh harbours for its 
vessels in the South Seas. But, despite this display of 
concern, the East India Company had been no friend to 
Australian discovery and colonization. In the early 
years of the settlement at Port Jackson, it resisted the 
opening of direct trade between Great Britain and New 
South Wales, with as jealous a dislike as ever the Spanish 
monopolists at Seville displayed in the sixteenth cen- 
tury concerning all trade with America that did not flow 
through their hands. Even so recently as 1806 the 
Company opposed — and, strangely enough, successfully 
— the sale of a cargo of sealskins and whale oil from 
Sydney, on the ground "that the charter of the colony 
gave the colonists no right to trade, and that the trans- 
action was a violation of Company's charter and against 
its welfare." The grant to Flinders was not, therefore, 
a manifestation of zeal for Australian development, 
except in the matter of finding harbours, and except, 
also, that there was an uneasy feeling that the French 
would be mischievously busy on the north coast. "I 
hope the French ships of discovery will not station 
themselves on the north-west coast of Australia," wrote 
C. F. Greville, one of the Company's directors. 

The instructions furnished to Flinders prescribed the 
course of the voyage very strictly. They were that he 
should first run down the coast from 130 degrees of 
east longitude (that is, from about the head of the 
Great Australian Bight) to Bass Strait, and endeavour 
to discover such harbours as there might be. Then, 
proceeding through the Strait, he was to call at Sydney 
to refresh his company and refit the ship. After that 
he was to return along the coast and diligently examine 
it as far as King George's Sound. As the sailing was 


delayed till the middle of July, Flinders expressed a 
wish that he should not be ordered to return to the 
south coast from Port Jackson. "If my orders do not 
forbid it, I shall examine the south coast more minutely 
in my first run along it, and if anything material should 
present itself, as a strait, gulf, or very large river, shall 
take as much time in its examination as the remaining 
part of the summer shall then consist of; for I consider 
it very material to the success of the voyage and to its 
early completion that we should be upon the northern 
coasts in winter and the southern ones in summer." 

This was written to Banks, who, as we have seen, 
could probably have secured an alteration of the official 
instructions had he desired to do so. But they were not 
modified; and about a fortnight later (July 17) 
Flinders wrote : "The Admiralty have not thought 
good to permit me to circumnavigate New Holland 
in the way that appears to me (underlined) best 
suited to expedition and safety." It is probable 
that, if Banks discussed the proposed alteration 
with the Admiralty, the more rapid run along 
the south coast was insisted upon, because that 
was the field to which the French expedition might 
be expected to apply itself with most diligence; as, in 
fact, was actually the case. Governor King had also 
written to Banks pointing out the importance of a 
southern survey, "to see what shelter it affords in case 
a ship should be taken before she can clear the land to 
the southward and the western entrance to the Strait." 

The instructions continued that after the explora- 
tion of the south of New Holland, the Investigator was 
to sail to the north-west and examine the Gulf of 
Carpentaria, carefully investigating Torres Strait and 
the whole of the remainder of the north-west and north- 
east coasts. After that, the east coast was to be more 
fully explored; and when the whole programme was 


finished Flinders was to return to England for further 

The functions of the "scientific gentlemen" were 
carefully defined. Flinders was directed to afford 
facilities for the naturalists to collect specimens and the 
artists to make drawings. The hand of Banks is 
apparent in the nice balancing of liberty of independent 
study with liability to direction from the commander; 
and his forethought in these particulars was probably 
inspired by his experience with Cook's expedition many 
years before. 

One other set of instructions from the Admiralty is 
of great importance in view of what subsequently 
occurred, and had a bearing upon the expedition as it 
affected political relations. Great Britain was at war 
with France, and the Investigator, though on a peaceful 
mission, was a sloop belonging to the British navy. 
Flinders wrote to the Admiralty (July 2) soliciting 
instructions as to what he was to do in case he met 
French vessels at sea, "for without an order to desist, 
the articles of war will oblige me to act inimically to 
them." The directions that he received were explicit. 
He was to act towards any French ship "as if the two 
countries were not at war; and with respect to the ships 
and vessels of other powers with which this country is 
at war, you are to avoid, if possible, having any com- 
munication with them ; and not to take letters or packets 
other than such as you may receive from this office or 
the office of his Majesty's Secretary of State." The 
concluding words of the instruction intimately concern 
the events which, in the next year but one, commenced 
that long agony of imprisonment which Flinders had to 
endure in Ile-de-France. 

He was also provided with a passport from the 
French Government, and the terms in which it was 
couched are of the utmost importance for the under- 


standing of what followed. It was issued for the 
Investigator, commanded by Captain Matthew Flinders, 
for a voyage of discovery of which the object was to 
extend human knowledge and promote the progress of 
nautical science. It commanded all French officers, at 
sea or on shore, not to interfere with the ship and its 
officers, but on the contrary to assist them if they needed 
help. But this treatment was only to be extended as 
long as the Investigator did not announce her intention 
of committing any act of hostility against the French 
Republic and her allies, did not render assistance to her 
enemies, and did not traffic in merchandise or contra- 
band goods. The passport was signed by the French 
Minister of Marine and Colonies, Forfait, on behalf 
of the First Consul.* 

Before the expedition sailed, Flinders became en- 
gaged in a correspondence which must have been em- 
barrassing to him, relating to his wife. He was married, 
as has been stated, in April, after he had been promoted 
commander, and while the Investigator was lying at 
Sheerness, awaiting sailing orders. As the voyage 
would in all probability extend over several years, his 
intention was to take his bride with him to Sydney, and 
leave her there while he prosecuted his investigations 
in the south, north and east. He had no reason to think 
that his doing so would give offence in official quarters, 
especially as he was aware of cases where commanders 
of ships had been permitted to take their wives on 
cruises when their vessels were not protected by pass- 
ports securing immunity from attack. There are even 
instances of wives of British naval officers being on 
board ship during engagements. During Nelson's 
attack on Santa Cruz, in 1797, Captain Fremantle of 
the Seahorse had with him his wife, whom he had lately 

* A transcript of Flinders' own copy of the French passport is 
now at Caen, amongst the Decaen Papers, Vol. 84, p. 133. 


married. It was in that engagement that Nelson lost 
an arm; and when he returned, bleeding and in great 
pain, he would not go on board the Seahorse, saying that 
he would not have Mrs. Fremantle alarmed by seeing 
him in such a condition, without any news of her hus- 
band, who had accompanied the landing. The ampu- 
tation of the shattered limb was therefore performed on 
the Theseus. 

The wisdom of permitting a naval officer to take 
his wife on a long voyage in a ship of the navy may 
well be questioned, and the contrary rule is now well 
established. But it was not invariably observed a cen- 
tury or more ago; and that Flinders acted in perfect 
good faith in the matter is evident from the correspon- 
dence, which, on so delicate a subject, he conducted with 
a manliness and good taste that display his character in 
an amiable light. 

In all probability Mrs. Flinders would have been 
allowed to proceed to Port Jackson unchallenged but 
for the unlucky circumstance that, when the com- 
missioners of the Admiralty paid an official visit of 
inspection to the ship, she was seen "seated in the 
captain's cabin without her bonnet."* They considered 
this to be "too open a declaration of that being her 
home." Her husband first heard of the matter semi- 
officially from Banks, who wrote on May 21st: — 

"I have but time to tell you that the news of your 
marriage, which was published in the Lincoln paper, 
has reached me. The Lords of the Admiralty have 
heard also that Mrs. Flinders is on board the Investi- 
gator, and that you have some thought of carrying her 
to sea with you. This I was very sorry to hear, and if 
that is the case I beg to give you my advice by no means 
to adventure to measures so contrary to the regulations 

* Flinders' Papers. 


and the discipline of the Navy; for I am convinced by 
language I have heard, that their Lordships will, if they 
hear of her being in New South Wales, immediately 
order you to be superseded, whatever may be the con- 
sequences, and in all likelihood order Mr. Grant to 
finish the survey." 

To threaten to supercede Flinders if it were even 
heard that his wife was in New South Wales was surely 
an excess of rigour. His reply was written from the 
Nore, May 24th, 1801: 

"I am much indebted to you, Sir Joseph, for the in- 
formation contained in your letter of the 21st. It is 
true that I had an intention of taking Mrs. Flinders to 
Port Jackson, to remain there until I should have com- 
pleted the voyage, and to have then brought her home 
again in the ship, and I trust that the service would not 
have suffered in the least by such a step. The 
Admiralty have most probably conceived that I 
intended to keep her on board during the voyage, but 
this was far from my intentions. As some vindication 
of the step I was about to take, I may be permitted to 
observe that until it was intended to apply for a pass- 
port, I not only did not take the step, but did not intend 
it — which is perhaps a greater attention to that article 
of the Naval Instructions than many commanders have 
paid to it. If their Lordships understood this matter 
in its true light, I should hope that they would have 
shown the same indulgence to me as to Lieut. Kent of 
the Buffalo, and many others who have not had the plea 
of a passport. 

"If their Lordships' sentiments should continue the 
same, whatever may be my disappointment, I shall give 
up the wife for the voyage of discovery; and I would 
beg of you, Sir Joseph, to be assured that even this 
circumstance will not damp the ardour I feel to accom- 
plish the important purpose of the present voyage, and 


in a way that shall preclude the necessity of any one 
following after me to explore. 

"It would be too much presumption in me to beg of 
Sir Joseph Banks to set this matter in its proper light, 
because by your letters I judge it meets with your dis- 
approbation entirely; but I hope that this opinion has 
been formed upon the idea of Mrs. Flinders continuing 
on board the ship when engaged in real service." 

Banks promised to lay before the Admiralty the 
representations made to him, but Flinders a few days 
later (June 3rd) wrote another letter in which he 
conscientiously expressed his determination not to risk 
a misunderstanding with his superiors by taking his 

"I feel much obliged by your offer to lay the sub- 
stance of my letter before the Admiralty, but I foresee 
that, although I should in the case of Mrs. Flinders 
going to Port Jackson have been more particularly 
cautious of my stay there, yet their Lordships will con- 
clude naturally enough that her presence would tend to 
increase the number of and to lengthen my visits. I 
am therefore afraid to risk their Lordships' ill opinion, 
and Mrs. Flinders will return to her friends immedi- 
ately that our sailing orders arrive." 

It can well be believed that "my Lords" of the 
Admiralty did not feel very considerate towards ladies 
just at that time ; for one of their most brilliant officers, 
Nelson, was, while this very correspondence was taking 
place, gravely compromising himself with Emma 
Hamilton at Naples. St. Vincent and Troubridge, 
salt-hearted old veterans as they were, were just the men 
to be suspicious on the score of petticoats fluttering about 
the decks of the King's ships. It seems that they were 
inclined unjustly and ungallantly to frown and cry 
cherchez la femme about small things that went wrong, 
even when Flinders was in no way to blame for them. 


They blamed him for some desertions before properly 
apprehending the circumstances, and when he had 
merely reported a fact for which he was not responsible. 

The next two letters close the whole incident, which 
gave more annoyance to all parties than ought to have 
been the case in connection with an officer so sedulously 
scrupulous in matters concerning the honour and 
efficiency of the service as Flinders was. Banks, in 
quite a patron's tone, wrote on June 5 th: 

"I yesterday went to the Admiralty to enquire about 
the Investigator, and was indeed much mortified to learn 
there that you had been on shore in Hythe Bay, and I 
was still more mortified to hear that several of your 
men had deserted, and that you had had a prisoner en- 
trusted to your charge, who got away at a time when 
the quarter-deck was in charge of a midshipman. I 
heard with pain many severe remarks on these matters, 
and in defence I could only say that as Captain Flinders 
is a sensible man and a good seaman, such matters could 
only be attributed to the laxity of discipline which always 
takes place when the captain's wife is on board, and that 
such lax discipline could never again take place, because 
you had wisely resolved to leave Mrs. Flinders with her 

It was a kindly admonishment from an elderly 
scholar to a young officer of twenty-seven only recently 
married; but to attribute affairs for which Flinders was 
not to blame to the presence of his bride, was a little 
unamiable. With excellent taste, Flinders, in his 
answer, avoided keeping his wife's name in the contro- 
versy, and he disposed of the allegations both effectively 
and judiciously: 

"My surprise is great that the Admiralty should 
attach any blame to me for the desertion of these men 
from the Advice brig, which is the next point in your 
letter, Sir Joseph. These men were lent, among others, 


to the brig, by order of Admiral Graeme. From her 
it was that they absented themselves, and I reported it 
to the Admiralty. I had been so particular as to send 
with the men a request to the commanding officer to per- 
mit none of them to go on shore, but Lieutenant Fowler 
pointed out to him such of them as might be most 
depended on to go in boats upon duty. Nothing more 
could have been done on our part to prevent desertion, 
and if blame rests anywhere it must be upon the officers 
of the Advice. The three men were volunteers for this 
voyage, but having gotten on shore with money in their 
pockets most probably stayed so long that they became 
afraid to return." 

On the subject of discipline he said: "It is only a 
duty to myself to assert that the discipline and good 
order on board the Investigator is exceeded in very few 
ships of her size, and is at least twice what it was under 
her former commander. I beg to refer to Lieutenant 
Fowler on this subject, who knows the ship intimately 
both as the Xenophon and Investigator. On the last 
subject I excuse myself from not having thought the 
occurrence of sufficient consequence to trouble Sir 
Joseph with, and it was what I least suspected that my 
character required a defender, for it was in my power 
to have suppressed almost the whole of those things 
for which I am blamed ; but I had the good of the ser- 
vice sufficiently at heart to make the reports which 
brought them into light. That the Admiralty have 
thrown blame on me, and should have represented to 
my greatest and best friend that I had gotten the ship 
on shore, had let a prisoner escape, and three of my 
men run away, without adding the attendant circum- 
stances, is most mortifying and grievous to me; but it is 
impossible to express so gratefully as I feel the anxious 
concern with which you took the part of one who has 
not the least claim to such generosity." 


The last two paragraphs refer to an incident which 
will be dealt with presently. 

Although the Investigator was ready to sail in April, 
1801, the Admiralty withheld orders till the middle of 
July. Flinders, vexed as he naturally was at having 
to leave his young wife behind, was impatient 
at the delay for two good reasons. First, he was 
anxious to have the benefit of the Australian summer 
months, between November and February, for the ex- 
ploration of the south-west, the winter being the better 
time for the northern work; and secondly, reports had 
appeared in the journals about the progress of the 
French expedition, and he did not wish to be forestalled 
in the making of probably important discoveries. The 
"Annual Register" for 1801, for example (p. 33) 
stated that letters were received from the Isle of France, 
dated April 29th, stating that Le Naturaliste and Le 
Geographe had left that station on their voyage to New 
Holland. While "my Lords" were warming up 
imaginary errors in the heat of an excited imagination 
on account of poor Mrs. Flinders, the commander of 
the Investigator was losing valuable time. In May he 
wrote to Sir Joseph Banks: "The advanced state of the 
season makes me excessively anxious to be off. I fear 
that a little longer delay will lose us a summer and 
lengthen our voyage at least six months. Besides that, 
the French are gaining time upon us." 

On May 26th, the Investigator left the Nore for 
Spithead to wait further orders. She was provided, by 
the Admiralty itself, with a chart published by J. H. 
Moore, upon which a sandbank known as the Roar, 
extending from Dungeness towards Folkestone, between 
2\ to 4 miles from land, was not marked. On the 
evening of the 28th, in a perfectly calm sea, and at a 
time when, sailing by the chart, there was no reason to 
apprehend any danger, the ship glided on to the bank. 


She did not suffer a particle of injury, and in a very 
short time had resumed her voyage. If Flinders had 
said nothing at all about the incident, nobody off the 
ship would have been any the wiser. But as the 
Admiralty had furnished him with a defective chart, 
and might do the same to other commanders, who might 
strike the sand in more inimical circumstances, he con- 
sidered it to be his duty to the service to report the 
matter; when lo! the Admiralty, instead of censuring 
its officials for supplying the Investigator with a faulty 
chart, gravely shook its head, and made those "severe 
remarks" about Flinders, which induced Sir Joseph 
Banks to admonish him so paternally in the letter 
already quoted. The Investigator had, it seemed to be 
the opinion of their Lordships, struck the sand, not 
because it was uncharted, but because Mrs. Flinders was 
on board between the Nore and Spithead! Flinders' 
letter to Banks, June 6th, stated his position quite con- 
clusively : 

"Finding so material a thing as a sandbank three 
or four miles from the shore unlaid down in the chart, 
I thought it a duty incumbent upon me to endeavour to 
prevent the like accident from happening to others, by 
stating the circumstances to the Admiralty, and giving 
the most exact bearings from the shoal that our situation 
would enable me to take, with the supposed distance 
from the land. It would have been very easy for me 
to have suppressed every part of the circumstance, and 
thus to have escaped the blame which seems to attach 
to me, instead of some share of praise for my good in- 
tentions. I hope that it will not be thought pre- 
sumptuous in me to say that no blame ought to be 
attributed to me . . . The Admiralty do not seem to 
take much into consideration that I had no master 
appointed, who ought to be the pilot, or that having 
been constantly employed myself in foreign voyages I 


cannot consequently have much personal knowledge of 
the Channel. In truth, I had nothing but the chart and 
my own general observations to direct me ; and had the 
former been at all correct we should have arrived here 
as safe as if we had any number of pilots." 

It is significant of Flinders' truth-telling habit of 
mind that when he came to write the history of the 
voyage, published thirteen years later, he did not pass 
over the incident at the Roar, though he can hardly have 
remembered as agreeable an event for which he was 
blamed when he was not wrong. But perhaps he found 
satisfaction in being able to write that the circumstance 
"showed the necessity there was for a regulation, since 
adopted, to furnish His Majesty's ships with correct 
charts." A natural comment is that it is odd that so 
obviously sensible a thing was not done until an accident 
showed the danger of not doing it. The blame 
temporarily put upon Flinders did no harm to his 
credit, and was probably merely an oblique form of self- 
reproach on the part of the Admiralty. 

The Investigator arrived at Spithead on June 2nd, 
but did not receive final sailing orders till more than 
another month had elapsed. "I put an end, I hope, to 
our correspondence for some months, concluding that 
you will sail immediately," wrote Sir Joseph Banks in 
June, "and with sincere good wishes for your future 
prosperity, and with a firm belief that you will, in your 
future conduct, do credit to yourself as an able investi- 
gator, and to me as having recommended you." The 
true spirit of friendship breathes in those words, the 
friendship, too, of a discerning judge of character for a 
younger man whom he respected and trusted. The 
trust was nobly justified. Flinders undertook the work 
with the firm determination to do his work thoroughly. 
"My greatest ambition," he had written some weeks 
previously (April 29), "is to make such a minute investi- 


gation of this extensive and very interesting country that 
no person shall have occasion to come after me to make 
further discoveries." It was with that downright 
resolve that Flinders set out, and in that spirit did he 
pursue his task to its end. It was not for nothing that 
this man was the nautical grandson of Cook. 

Sailing orders arrived from London on July 17th, 
and on the following day the Investigator sailed from 
Spithead. Mrs. Flinders was at this time residing with 
her friends in Lincolnshire. She had been ill from fret- 
ful disappointment when forbidden to sail with her hus- 
band, but had recovered before they parted. Many a 
weary, bitter year was to pass before she would see him 
again ; years of notable things done, and of cruel wrongs 
endured; and then they were only to meet for a few 
months, till death claimed the brave officer and fine- 
spirited gentleman who was Matthew Flinders. 

From the correspondence of these weeks a few 
passages may be chosen, as showing the heart-side of a 
gallant sailor's nature. He wrote to his wife in June: 
"The philosophical calmness which I imposed upon 
thee is fled from myself, and I am just as awkward 
without thee as one half of a pair of scissors without 
its fellow," an image for separation which may be 
commended to any poet ingenious enough to find a 
rhyme for "scissors." The following is dated July 
7th: "I should not forget to say that the gentle Mr. 
Bauer seldom forgets to add 'and Mrs. Flinders' good 
health' after the cloth is withdrawn, and even the 
bluff Mr. Bell does not forget you .... Thou 
wilt write me volumes, my dearest love, wilt thou 
not? No pleasure is at all equal to that I receive from 
thy letters. The idea of how happy we might be will 
sometimes intrude itself and take away the little spirits 
that thy melancholy situation leaves me. I can write 
no longer with this confounded pen. I will find a 


better to-morrow. May the choicest blessings of 
Heaven go with thee, thou dearest, kindest, best of 

This one was written from the Cape in November: 
"Write to me constantly; write me pages and volumes. 
Tell me the dress thou wearest, tell me thy dreams, any- 
thing, so do but talk to me and of thyself. When thou 
art sitting at thy needle and alone, then think of me, my 
love, and write me the uppermost of thy thoughts. Fill 
me half a dozen sheets, and send them when thou canst. 
Think only, my dearest girl upon the gratification which 
the perusal and reperusal fifty times repeated will afford 
me, and thou wilt write me something or other every 
day. Adieu, my dearest, best love. Heaven bless thee 
with health and comfort, and preserve thy full 
affection towards thy very own, Matthew Flinders." 

To return from these personal relations to the 
voyage : Some days before the Investigator reached 
Madeira, a Swedish brig was met, and had to receive 
a lesson in nautical manners during war-time. The 
incident is reported by seaman Samuel Smith with a 
pretty mixture of pronouns, genders and tenses: "At 
night we was piped all hands in the middle watch to 
quarters. A brig was bearing down upon our star- 
board bow. Our Captn spoke her, but receiving no 
answer we fired a gun past his stern. Tacked ship and 
spoke her, which proved to be a Swede."* 

Flinders was, it has been said, the nautical grandson 
of Cook. How thoroughly he followed the example of 

* MS., Mitchell Library: "Journal f Samuel Smith, Sea- 
man, who served on board the Investigator, Captn Flinders, on a 
voyage of discovery in the South Seas." The manuscript covers 52 
small quarto pages, and is neatly written. Some of Smith's 
dates are wrong. It may be noted here that Smith, on his 
return from the voyage, was impressed in the Downs and re- 
tained in the Navy till 1815. He died at Thornton's Court, 
Manchester, in 1821, aged 50. He was therefore 30 years of age 
when he made this voyage. 


(the great sailor is apparent from the lines upon which 
he managed his ship and governed his crew. This is 
what he was able to write of the voyage down to the 
| Cape of Good Hope, reached on October 16th: "At 
this time we had not a single person in the sick list, both 
officers and men being fully in as good health as when 
we sailed from Spithead. I had begun very early to 
put in execution the beneficial plan first practised and 
made known by the great Captain Cook. It was in the 
standing orders of the ship, that on every fine day the 
deck below and the cockpit should be cleaned, washed, 
aired with stoves, and sprinkled with vinegar. On wet 
and dull days they were cleaned and aired, without 
washing. Care was taken to prevent the people from 
sleeping upon deck or lying down in their wet clothes; 
and once in every fortnight or three weeks, as circum- 
stances permitted, their beds, and the contents of their 
chests and bags were opened out and exposed to the sun 
and air. On the Sunday and Thursday mornings, the 
ship's company was mustered, and every man appeared 
clean-shaved and dressed; and when the evenings were 
fine the drum and fife announced the forecastle to be the 
scene of dancing; nor did I discourage other playful 
amusements which might occasionally be more to the 
taste of the sailors, and were not unseasonable. 

"Within the tropics lime juice and sugar were made 
to suffice as antiscorbutics ; on reaching a higher latitude, 
sour-krout and vinegar were substituted; the essence of 
malt was served for the passage to New Holland, and 
for future occasions, on consulting with the surgeon, I 
had thought it expedient to make some slight changes 
in the issuing of the provisions. Oatmeal was boiled 
for breakfast four days in the week, as usual; and at 
other times, two ounces of portable broth, in cakes, to 
each man, with such additions of onions, pepper, etc., 
as the different messes possessed, made a comfortable 


addition to their salt meat. And neither in this passage, 
nor, I may add, in any subsequent part of the voyage, 
were the officers or people restricted to any allowance of 
fresh water. They drank freely at the scuttled cask, 
and took away, under the inspection of the officer of the 
watch, all that was requisite for culinary purposes; and 
very frequently two casks of water in the week were 
given for washing their clothes. With these regula- 
tions, joined to a due enforcement of discipline, I had 
the satisfaction to see my people orderly and full of zeal 
for the service in which we were engaged; and in such 
a state of health that no delay at the Cape was required 
beyond the necessary refitment of the ship." 

How wise, considerate, and farseeing this policy 
was ! It reads like the sageness of a gray-headed 
veteran. Yet Flinders had only attained his 27th birth- 
day precisely seven months before he reached the Cape 
on this voyage. He had learned how men, as well as 
ships, should be managed. "It was part of my plan 
for preserving the health of the people to promote active 
amusements amongst them," he said of the jollity on 
crossing the line; and we can almost see the smile of 
recollection which played upon his lips when he wrote 
that "the seamen were furnished with the means and 
the permission to conclude the day with merriment." 
Seaman Smith, who shared in the fun, tells us what 
occurred with his own peculiar disregard of correct 
spelling and grammatical construction: "we crossd the 
equinocial line and had the usuil serimony of Neptune 
and his attendance hailing the ship and coming on board. 
The greatest part of officers and men was shaved, not 
having crossd the line before. At night grog was 
servd out to each watch, which causd the evening to be 
spent in merriment." 

At the Cape the seams were re-caulked, and the ship 
gave less trouble on the voyage across the Indian Ocean 


than she had done on the run south. She left False 
Bay on November 4th. The run across the Indian 
Ocean was uneventful, except that the ship ran foul of 
a whale apparently sleeping on the water, and "caused 
such an alarm that he sank as expeditiously as possible" ; 
and that an albatross was captured which, "being 
caught with hook and line it had its proper faculties and 
appeared of a varocious nature."* On December 6th 
the coast of Australia was sighted near Cape Leeuwin 

* Smith's Journal, Mitchell Library MSS. 

Chapter XIII. 

It will be necessary to devote some attention to the 
French expedition of discovery, commanded by Nicolas 
Baudin, which sailed from Havre on October 19th, 
1800, nearly two months before the British Admiralty 
authorised the despatch of the Investigator, and nine 
months all but two days before Flinders was permitted 
to leave England. 

The mere fact that this expedition was despatched 
while Napoleon Bonaparte was First Consul of the 
French Republic, has led many writers to jump to the 
conclusion that it was designed to cut out a portion of 
Australia for occupation by the French; that, under the 
thin disguise of being charged with a scientific mission, 
Baudin was in reality an emissary of Machiavellian 
statecraft, making a cunning move in the great game of 
world-politics. The author has, in an earlier book* 
endeavoured to show that such was not the case. Bona- 
parte did not originate the discovery voyage. He 
simply authorised it, as head of the State, when the 
proposition was laid before him by the Institute of 
France, a scientific body, concerned with the augmenta- 
tion of knowledge, and anxious that an effort should be 
made to complete a task which the abortive expeditions 
of Laperouse and Dentrecasteaux had failed to accom- 

* Terre Napoleon (London, 1910). Since that book was pub- 
lished, I have had the advantage of reading a large quantity of 
manuscript material, all unpublished, preserved in the Archives 
Nationales and the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. It strengthens 
the main conclusions promulgated in Terre Napoleon, but of 
course amplifies the evidence very considerably. The present 
chapter is written with the Baudin and other manuscripts, as 
well as the printed material, in mind. 



Moreover, if Bonaparte had wished to acquire terri- 
tory in Australia, he was not so foolish a person as to 
fit out an expedition estimated to cost over half a million 
francs,* and which actually cost a far larger sum, when 
he could have obtained what he wanted simply by asking. 
The treaty of Amiens was negotiated and signed while 
Baudin's ships were at sea. The British Government 
at that time was very anxious for peace, and was 
prepared to make concessions — did, in fact, surrender 
a vast extent of territory won by a woful expenditure of 
blood and treasure. It cannot be said that Australia 
was greatly valued by Great Britain at the time. She 
occupied only a small portion of an enormous continent, 
and would certainly not have seriously opposed a pro- 
ject that the French should occupy some other portion 
of it, if Bonaparte had put forward a claim as a con- 
dition of peace. But he did nothing of the kind. 

If we are to form sound views of history, basing con- 
clusions on the evidence, we must set aside suspicions 
generated at a time of fierce racial antipathy, when it 
was almost part of an Englishman's creed to hate a 
Frenchman. Neither the published history of Baudin's 
voyage, nor the papers relating to it which are now 
available for study — except two documents to which 
special attention will be devoted hereafter, and which 
did not emanate from persons in authority — afford 
warrant for believing that there was any other object in 
view than that professed when application for a passport 
was made to the Admiralty. The confidential instruc- 
tions of the Ministerf of Marine to BaudinJ leave no 

* Report of the Commission of the Institute, mss. Bib. Nat, nouv. 
acq., France, 9439, p. 139. 

t MSS., Archives Nationales, BB4, 999, Marine. I have given 
an account of this important manuscript, with copious extracts, in 
the English Historical Review, April, 1913. 

X Fleurieu to Forfait, mss. Bib. Nat., nouv. acq., France, 9439, 
p. 137. 


doubt that the purpose was quite bona fide. "You 
labours," wrote Forfait, "having for their sole obje 
the perfecting of scientific knowledge, you should 
observe the most complete neutrality, allowing no doubt 
to be cast upon your exactitude in confining yourself to 
the object of your mission, as set forth in the passports 
which have been furnished. In your relations with 
foreigners, the glorious success of our arms, the power 
and wisdom of your government, the grand and 
generous views of the First Consul for the pacification 
of Europe, the order that he has restored in the interior 
of France, furnish you with the means of giving to 
foreign peoples just ideas upon the real state of the 
Republic and upon the prosperity which is assured to 
it." The men of science who had promoted the voyage 
were anxious that not even a similitude of irregularity 
should be permitted. Thus we find the Comte de 
Fleurieu, who drew up the itinerary, writing to the 
Minister urging him to include in the instructions a 
paragraph prohibiting the ships from taking on board, 
under any pretext, merchandise which could give to a 
scientific expedition the appearance of a commercial 
venture, "because if an English cruiser or man-of-war 
should visit them, and find on board other goods than 
articles of exchange for dealing with aboriginal peoples, 
this might serve as a pretext for arresting them, and 
Baudin's passport might be disregarded on the ground 
that it had been abused by being employed as a means 
of conducting without risk a traffic which the state of 
war would make very lucrative." 

The question of the origin and objects of the ex- 
pedition is, however, an entirely different one from that 
of the use which Napoleon would have made of the in- 
formation collected, had the opportunity been available 
of striking a blow at Great Britain through her southern 
colony. It is also different from the question (as to 



which something will be said later) of the advantage 
taken by two members of Baudin's staff of the scope 
allowed them at Port Jackson, to "spy out the land" 
with a view of furnishing information valuable in a 
military sense to their Government. 

The instructions to Baudin were very similar to 
those w T hich had been given to Laperouse and Dentre- 
casteaux in previous years, being drafted by the same 
hand, and some paragraphs in an "instruction particu- 
liere," show that the French were thoroughly up-to-date 
with their information, and knew in what parts of the 
coast fresh work required to be done.* 

Nicolas Baudin was not a French naval officer. 
He had been in the merchant service, and, more recently, 
had had charge of an expedition despatched to Africa 
by the Austrian Government to collect specimens for 
the museum at Vienna. War between France and 
Austria broke out before he returned; and Baudin, feel- 
ing less loyal to his Austrian employers than to his own 
country, handed over the whole collection to the 
Museum in Paris. This action, which in the circum- 
stances was probably regarded as patriotic, brought him 
under the notice of Jussieu, the famous French botanist; 
and when the South Sea expedition was authorised, that 
scientist recommended Baudin as one who had taken an 
interest in natural history researches, and who had 
given "a new proof of his talent and of his love for 
science by the choice of the specimens composing his last 
collection, deposited in the museum." The Minister of 
Marine minuted Jussieu's recommendation in the 
margin: "No choice could be happier than that of 
Captain Baudin, "t and so he was appointed. He was 

* 'Trojet d'itin£raire pour le Commandant Baudin; memoire 
pour servir d'instruction particuliere." MSS., Archives Nationales, 
Marine, BB4, 999. 

tMSS., Bib. Nat, nouv. acq., France, 9439, p. 121. 


by no means the kind of officer whom Napoleon would 
have selected had his designs been such as have com- 
monly been alleged. 

Two ships of the navy were commissioned for the 
service. Under the names La Serpente and he Festive 
they had been built with a view to an invasion of Eng- 
land, contemplated in 1793.* They were re-named 
he Geographe and he Naturaliste on being allotted to 
a much safer employment. Both were described as 
solidly built, good sailers, and easy to control; and the 
officer who surveyed them to determine whether they 
would be suitable reported that without impairing their 
sea-going qualities it would be easy to construct upon 
their decks high poops to hold quantities of growing 
plants, which it was intended to collect and bring home. 
On these ships Baudin and his selected staff embarked 
at Havre, and, a British passport being obtained under 
the circumstances already related, sailed south in 

If Baudin had been the keen and capable commander 
that those who secured his appointment believed him to 
be, he should have discovered and charted the whole of 
the unknown southern coast of Australia, before 
Flinders was many days' sail from England. The fact 
that this important work was actually done by the Eng- 
lish navigator was in no measure due to the sagacity of 
the Admiralty — whose officials procrastinated in an 
inexplicable fashion even after the Investigator had been 
commissioned and equipped — but to his own prompt- 
ness, competence and zeal, and the peculiar dilatoriness 
of his rivals. Baudin's vessels reached Ile-de-France 
(Mauritius) in March, 1801, and lay there for the 
leisurely space of forty days. Two-thirds of a year had 

* MSS., Bib. Nat., nouv. acq., France, 9439, report of dc Bruix 
to the Minister. 


elapsed before they came upon the Australian coast. 
But Baudin did not even then set to work where there 
was discovery to be achieved. Winter was approach- 
ing, and sailing in these southern seas would be uncom- 
fortable in the months of storm and cold; so he dawdled 
«p the west coast of Australia, in warm, pleasant waters, 
and made for Timor, where he arrived in August. He 
remained in the Dutch port of Kupang till the middle 
of November — three whole months wasted, nearly 
eleven months consumed since he had sailed from 
France. In the meantime, the alert and vigorous 
captain of the Investigator was speeding south as fast 
as the winds would take him, too eager to lose a 
day, flying straight to his work like an arrow to its 
mark, and doing it with the thoroughness and accuracy 
that were part of his nature. 

The French on board Le Geographe and Le 
Naturaliste were as unhappy as their commander was 
slow. Scurvy broke out, and spread among the crew 
with virulence. Baudin appeared to have little or no 
conception of the importance of the sanitary measures 
which Cook was one of the earliest navigators to enjoin, 
and by which those who emulated his methods were able 
to keep in check the ravages of this scourge of sea- 
faring men. He neglected common precautions, and 
paid no heed to the counsel of the ship's surgeons. As 
a consequence, the sufferings of his men were such that 
it is pitiful to read about them in the official history of 
the voyage. 

From Timor Baudin sailed for southern Tasmania, 
arriving there in January, 1802, and remaining in the 
neighbourhood till March. There was no European 
settlement upon the island at that time, and Baudin des- 
cribed it as a country "which ought not to be neglected, 
and which a nation that does not love us does not look 


upon with indifference."* A severe storm separated 
Le Geographe from her escort on March 7 and 8, in 
the neighbourhood of the eastern entrance of Bass 
Strait. Le Naturaliste spent some time in Western- 
port, making a survey of it, and discovering the second 
island, which Bass had missed on his whaleboat cruise. 
Her commander, Captain Hamelin, then took her round 
to Port Jackson, to solicit aid from the Governor of the 
English colony there. Meanwhile Baudin sailed 
through the Strait from east to west. He called at 
Waterhouse Island, off the north-east coast of Van Die 
men's Land, misled by its name into thinking that he 
would find fresh water there. The island was named 
after Captain Henry Waterhouse of the Reliance, but 
Baudin, unaware of this, considered that it belied its 
name. "It does not seem," he wrote, "to offer any 
appearance of water being discoverable there, and I am 
persuaded that it can have been named Water House 
only because the English visited it at a time when heavy 
rains had fallen. "t Baudin passed Port Phillip, 
rounded Cape Otway, and coasted along till he came 
to Encounter Bay, where occurred an incident with 
which we shall be concerned after we have traced the 
voyage of Flinders eastward to the same point. 

* Baudin to the Minister of Marine, mss., Archives Nationales, 
BB4, 995, Marine. 

t Baudin's Diary, mss. Bibliotheque Nationale : "Je suis per- 
suade qu'on ne l'a nomm£ Wather House que par ce que les 
Anglais qui l'ont visite y auront eu beaucoup de pluie." 

Chapter XIV. 


We now resume the story of Flinders' voyage along the 
southern coast of Australia, from the time when he 
made Cape Leeuwin on December 6th, 1801. 

That part of the coast lying between the south-west 
corner of the continent and Fowler's Bay, in the Great 
Australian Bight, had been traversed prior to this time. 
In 1791 Captain George Vancouver, in the British ship 
Cape Chatham, sailed along it from Cape Leeuwin to 
King George's Sound, which he discovered and named. 
He anchored in the harbour, and remained there for a 
fortnight. He would have liked to pursue the dis- 
covery of this unknown country, and did sail further 
east, as far as the neighbourhood of Termination Island, 
in longitude 122° 8'. But, meeting with adverse winds, 
he abandoned the research, and resumed his voyage to 
north-west America across the Pacific. In 1792, Bruny 
Dentrecasteaux, with the French ships Recherche and 
Esperance, searching for tidings of the lost Laperouse, 
followed the line of the shore more closely than Van- 
couver had done, and penetrated much further eastward. 
His instructions, prepared by Fleurieu, had directed 
him to explore the whole of the southern coast of Aus- 
tralia; but he was short of water, and finding nothing 
but sand and rock, with no harbour, and no promise of 
a supply of what he so badly needed, he did not con- 
tinue further than longitude 131° 38£' E., about two 
and a half degrees east of the present border line of 
Western and South Australia. These navigators, with 
the Dutchman Pieter Nuyts, in the early part of the 
seventeenth century, and the Frenchman St. Alouarn, 



who anchored near the Leeuwin in 1772, were the only 
Europeans known to have been upon any part of these 
southern coasts before the advent of Flinders; and the 
extent of the voyage of Nuyts is by no means clear. 

Flinders, as we have seen, laid it down as a guiding 
principle that he would make so complete a survey of 
the shores visited by him as to leave little for anybody 
to do after him. He therefore commenced his work 
immediately he touched land, constructiong his own 
charts as the ship slowly traversed the curves of the 
coast. The result was that many corrections and ad- 
ditions to the charts of Vancouver and Dentrecasteaux 
were made before the entirely new discoveries were 
commenced. In announcing this fact, Flinders, always 
generous in his references to good work done by his 
predecessors, warmly praised the charts prepared by 
Beautemps-Beaupre, geographical engineer" of the 
Recherche. "Perhaps no chart of a coast so little 
known as this is, will bear a comparison with its original 
better than this of M. Beaupre," he said. His own 
charts were of course fuller and more precise, but he 
made no claim to superiority on this account, modestly 
observing that he would have been open to reproach if. 
after following the coast with an outline of M. Beaupre's 
chart before him, he had not effected improvements 
where circumstances did not permit so close an examina- 
tion to be made in 1792. 

Several inland excursions were made, and some of 
the King George's Sound aboriginals were encountered. 
Flinders noted down some of their words, and pointed 
out the difference from words for the same objects 
used by Port Jackson and Van Diemen's Land natives. 
An exception to this rule was the word used for calling 
to a distance — cau-wah! (come here). This is certainly 
very like the Port Jackson cow-ee, whence comes the 


one aboriginal word of universal employment in Aus- 
tralia to-day, the coo-ee of the townsman and the bush- 
man alike, a call entered in the vocabulary collected by 
Hunter as early as 1790. 

The method of research adopted by Flinders was 
similar to that employed on the Norfolk voyage. The 
ship was kept all day as close inshore as possible, so that 
water breaking on the shore was visible from the 
deck, and no river or opening could escape notice. When 
this could not be done, because the coast retreated far 
back, or was dangerous, the commander stationed him- 
self at the masthead with a glass. All the bearings were 
laid down as soon as taken, whilst the land was in sight; 
and before retiring to rest at night Flinders made it a 
practice to finish up his rough chart for the day, together 
with his journal of observations. The ship hauled oft 
the coast at dusk, but especial care was taken to come 
upon it at the same point next morning, as soon after 
daylight as practicable, so that work might be resumed 
precisely where it had been dropped on the previous 
day. ''This plan," said Flinders, "to see and lay down 
everything myself, required constant attention and much 
labour, but was absolutely necessary to obtaining that 
accuracy of which I was desirous." When bays or 
groups of islands were reached, Flinders went ashore 
with the theodolite, took his angles, measured, mapped, 
and made topographical notes. The lead was kept 
busy, making soundings. The rise and fall of the tides 
were observed; memoranda on natural phenomena were 
written; opportunities were given for the naturalists to 
collect specimens, and for the artist to make drawings. 
The net was frequently drawn in the bays for examples 
of marine life. Everybody when ashore kept a look 
out for plants, birds, beasts, and insects. In short, a 
keenness for investigation, an assiduity in observation, 
animated the whole ship's company, stimulated by the 


example of the commander, who never spared himself 
in his work, and interested himself in that of others. 

As in a drama, "comic relief" was occasionally 
interposed amid more serious happenings. The blacks 
were friendly, though occasionally shy and suspicious. 
In one scene the mimicry that is a characteristic of the 
aboriginal was quaintly displayed. The incident, full 
of colour and humour, is thus related by Flinders : 

"Our friends, the natives, continued to visit us; and 
an old man with several others being at the tents this 
morning, I ordered the party of marines on shore, to 
be exercised in their presence. The red coats and white 
crossed belts were greatly admired, having some resem- 
blance to their own manner of ornamenting themselves; 
and the drum, but particularly the life, excited their 
astonishment; but when they saw these beautiful red and 
white men, with their bright muskets, drawn up in a line, 
they absolutely screamed with delight; nor were their 
wild gestures and vociferation to be silenced but by 
commencing the exercise, to which they paid the most 
earnest and silent attention. Several of them moved 
their hands, involuntarily, according to the motions; and 
the old man placed himself at the end of the rank, with 
a short staff in his hand, which he shouldered, presented, 
grounded, as did the marines their muskets, without, I 
believe, knowing what he did. Before firing, the 
Indians were made acquainted with what was going to 
take place; so that the volleys did not excite much 

Seaman Smith was naturally much interested in the 
aboriginals, whose features were however to him "quite 
awful, having such large mouths and long teeth." They 
were totally without clothing, and "as soon as they saw 
our tents they run into the bushes with such activity that 
would pawl any European to exhibit. Because our men 


would not give them a small tommy-hawk they began 
to throw pieces of wood at them, which exasperated 
our men; but orders being so humane towards the 
natives that we must put up with anything but heaving 
spears." Furthermore, "they rubbd their skin against 
ours, expecting some mark of white upon their's, but 
finding their mistake they appeared surprised." 

Pleasures more immediately incidental to geo- 
graphical discovery — those pleasures which eager and 
enterprising minds must experience, however severe the 
labour involved, on traversing portions of the globe 
previously unknown to civilised mankind — commenced 
after the head of the Great Bight was passed. From 
about the vicinity of Fowler's Bay (named after the first 
lieutenant of the Investigator) the coast was virgin to 
geographical science. Comparisons of original work 
with former charts were no longer possible. The ship 
was entering un-navigated waters, and the coasts 
delineated were new to the world's knowledge. The 
quickening of the interest in the work in hand, which 
touched both officers and men of the expedition, can be 
felt by the reader of Flinders' narrative. There was 
a consciousness of having crossed a line separating what 
simply required verification and amplification, from a 
totally fresh field of research. Every reach of coast- 
line now traversed was like a cable, long buried in the 
deep of time, at length hauled into daylight, with its 
oozy deposits of seaweed, shell and mud lying thick 
upon it. 

Contingent upon discovery was the pleasure of 
naming important features of the coast. It is doubtful 
whether any other single navigator in history applied 
names which are still in use to so many capes, bays and 
islands, upon the shores of the habitable globe, as 
Flinders did. The extent of coastline freshly discovered 


by him was not so great as that first explored by some 
of his predecessors. But no former navigator pursued 
extensive new discoveries so minutely, and, consequently, 
found so much to name ; while the precision of Flinders' 
records left no doubt about the places that he named, 
when in later years the settlement of country and the 
navigation of seas necessitated the use of names. Com- 
pare, for instance, in this one respect, the work of Cook 
and Dampier, Vasco da Gama and Magellan, Tasman 
and Quiros, with that of Flinders. Historically their 
voyages may have been in some respects more import- 
ant; but they certainly added fewer names to the map. 
There are 103 names on Cook's charts of eastern Aus- 
tralia from Point Hicks to Cape York; but there are 
about 240 new names on the charts of Flinders repre- 
senting southern Australia and Tasmania. He is the 
Great Denominator among navigators. He named 
geographical features after his friends, after his 
associates on the Investigator, after distinguished per- 
sons connected with the Navy, after places in which he 
was interested. Fowler's Bay, Point Brown, Cape 
Bauer, Franklin's Isles, Point Bell, Point Westall, 
Taylor's Isle, and Thistle Island, commemorate his 
shipmates. Spencer's Gulf was named "in honour of 
the respected nobleman who presided at the Board of 
Admiralty when the voyage was planned and the ship 
was put in commission," and Althorp Isles celebrated 
Lord Spencer's heir.* St. Vincent's Gulf was named 
"in honour of the noble admiral" who was at the head 
of the Admiralty when the Investigator sailed from 
England, and who had "continued to the voyage that 

* Cockburn, Nomenclature of South Australia (Adelaide, 
1909), p. 9 is mistaken in speculating that "there is a parish of 
Althorp in Flinders' native country in Lincolnshire which 
probably accounts for the choice of the name here." Althorp. 
which should be spelt without a final "e," is not in Lincolnshire, 
but in Northamptonshire. 


countenance and protection of which Earl Spencer had 
set the example." To Yorke's Peninsula, between the 
two gulfs, was affixed the name of the Right Hon. C. 
P. Yorke, afterwards Lord Hardwicke, the First Lord 
who authorised the publication of Flinders' Voyage. 
Thus, the ministerial heads of the Admiralty in three 
Governments (Pitt's, Addington's and Spencer Perce- 
val's) came to be commemorated. It may be remarked 
as curious that a naval officer so proud of his service as 
Flinders was, should nowhere have employed the name 
of the greatest sailor of his age, Nelson. There is a 
Cape Nelson on the Victorian coast, but that name was 
given by Grant. 

In Spencer's Gulf we come upon a group of Lincoln- 
shire place-names, for Flinders, his brother Samuel, the 
mate, Fowler, and Midshipman John Franklin, all 
serving on this voyage, were Lincolnshire men. Thus 
we find Port Lincoln, Sleaford Bay, Louth Bay, Cape 
Donington, Stamford Hill, Surfleet Point, Louth Isle, 
Sibsey Isle, Stickney Isle, Spilsby Isle, Partney Isle, 
Revesby Isle, Point Boston, and Winceby Isle. Banks* 
name was given to a group of islands, and Coffin's Bay 
must not be allowed to suggest any gruesome associa- 
tion, for it was named after Sir Isaac Coffin, 
resident naval commissioner at Sheerness, who 
had given assistance in the equipment of the 
Investigator. A few names, like Streaky Bay, 
Lucky Bay, and Cape Catastrophe, were applied from 
circumstances that occurred on the voyage. A poet of 
the antipodes who should, like Wordsworth, be moved 
to write "Poems on the Naming of Places," would find 
material in the names given by Flinders. 

Interest in this absorbing work rose to something 
like excitement on February 20th, when there were indi- 
cations, from the set of the tide, that an unusual feature 


of the coast was being approached. "The tide from 
the north-eastward, apparently the ebb, ran more than 
one mile an hour, which was the more remarkable from 
no set of the tide worthy to be noticed having hitherto 
been observed upon this coast." The ship had rounded 
Cape Catastrophe, and the land led away to the north, 
whereas hitherto it had trended east and south. What 
did this mean? Flinders must have been strongly re- 
minded of his experience in the Norfolk in Bass Strait, 
when the rush of the tide from the south showed that 
the north-west corner of Van Diemen's Land had been 
turned, and that the demonstration of the Strait's exist- 
ence was complete. There were many speculations as 
to what the signs indicated. "Large rivers, deep inlets, 
inland seas and passages into the Gulf of Carpentaria, 
were terms frequently used in our conversations of this 
evening, and the prospect of making an interesting dis- 
covery seemed to have infused new life and vigour into 
every man in the ship." The expedition was, in fact, 
in the bell-mouth of Spencer's Gulf, and the next few 
days were to show whether the old surmise was true — 
that Terra Australis was cloven in twain by a strait 
from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the southern ocean. 
It was, indeed, a crisis-time of the discovery voyage. 

But before the gulf was examined, a tragedy threw 
the ship into mourning. On the evening of Sunday, 
February 21st, the cutter was returning from the main- 
land, where a party had been searching for water in 
charge of the Master, John Thistle. She carried a 
midshipman, William Taylor, and six sailors. Nobody 
on the ship witnessed the accident that happened; but 
the cutter had been seen coming across the water, and 
as she did not arrive when darkness set in, the fear that 
she had gone down oppressed everybody on board. A 
search was made, but ineffectually; and next day the boat 
was found floating bottom uppermost, stove in, and 


bearing the appearance of having been dashed against 
rocks. The loss of John Thistle was especially 
grievous to Flinders. The two had been companions 
from the very beginning of his career in Australia. 
Thistle had been one of Bass's crew in the whaleboat; 
he had been on the Norfolk when Van Diemen's Land 
was circumnavigated ; and he had taken part in the cruise 
to Moreton Bay. His memory lives in the name of 
Thistle Island, on the west of the entrance to the gulf, 
and in the noble tribute which his commander paid to 
his admirable qualities. It would be wrong to deprive 
the reader of the satisfaction of reading Flinders' 
eulogy of his companion of strenuous years : 

"The reader will pardon me the observation that 
Mr. Thistle was truly a valuable man, as a seaman, an 
officer, and a good member of society. I had known 
him, and we had mostly served together, from the year 
1794. He had been with Mr. Bass in his perilous ex- 
pedition in the whaleboat, and with me in the voyage 
round Van Diemen's Land, and in the succeeding 
expedition to Glass House and Hervey's Bays. From 
his merit and prudent conduct, he was promoted from 
before the mast to be a midshipman and afterwards a 
master in His Majesty's service. His zeal for dis- 
covery had induced him to join the Investigator when 
at Spithead and ready to sail, although he had returned 
to England only three weeks before, after an absence 
of six years.* Besides performing assiduously the 
duties of his situation, Mr. Thistle had made himself 
well acquainted with the practice of nautical astronomy, 

* In a letter to Banks from Spithead on June 3rd, 1801, 
Flinders had written: "I am happy to inform you that the 
Buffalo has brought home a person formerly of the Reliance 
whom I wish to have as master. He volunteers, the captain of 
the ship agrees, and I have made application by to-day's post 
and expect his appointmnt by Friday." The re r erence was evi- 
dently to John Thistle. 


and began to be very useful in the surveying depart- 
ment. His loss was severely felt by me, and he was 
lamented by all on board, more especially by his mess- 
mates, who knew more intimately the goodness and 
stability of his disposition." 

Taylor's Isle was named after the young midship- 
man of this catastrophe, and six small islands in the 
vicinity bear the names of the boat's crew. It is a 
singular fact that only two of the eight sailors drowned 
could swim. Even Captain Cook never learnt to swim ! 

Before leaving the neighbourhood, Flinders erected 
a copper plate upon a stone post at the head of Memory 
Cove, and had engraved upon it the names of the un- 
fortunates who had perished, with a brief account of 
the accident. Two fragments of the original plate are 
now in the museum at Adelaide. In later years it was 
beaten down by a storm, and the South Australian 
Government erected a fresh tablet in Memory Cove to 
replace it. 

A thorough survey of Port Lincoln was made while 
the ship was being replenished with water. Some 
anxiety had been felt owing to the lack of this necessity, 
and Flinders showed the way to obtain it by digging 
holes in the white clay surrounding a brackish marsh 
which he called Stamford Mere. The water that drained 
into the holes was found to be sweet and wholesome, 
though milky in appearance. As the filling of the casks 
and conveying them to the ship — to a quantity of 60 
tons — occupied several days, the surveying and scientific 
employments were pursued diligently on land. 

The discovery of Port Lincoln was in itself an event 
of consequence, since it is a harbour of singular com- 
modiousness and beauty, and would, did it but possess 
a more prolific territory at its back, be a maritime 
station of no small importance. Nearly forty years 


later, Sir John Franklin, then Governor of Tasmania, 
paid a visit to Port Lincoln, expressly to renew acquaint- 
ance with a place in the discovery of which he had 
participated in company with a commander whose 
memory he honoured; and he erected on Stamford Hill, 
at his own cost, an obelisk in commemoration of 
Flinders. In the same way, on his first great overland 
arctic journey in 1821, Franklin remembered Flinders 
in giving names to discoveries. 

It was on March 6th that the exploration of 
Spencer's Gulf commenced. As the ship sailed along 
the western shore, the expectations which had been 
formed of a strait leading through the continent to the 
Gulf of Carpentaria faded away. The coast lost its 
boldness, the water became more and more shallow, and 
the opposite shore began to show itself. The gulf was 
clearly tapering to an end. "Our prospects of a channel 
or strait cutting off some considerable portion of Terra 
Australis grew less, for it now appeared that the ship 
was entering into a gulph." On the 10th, the Investi- 
gator having passed Point Lowly, and having on the 
previous day suddenly come into two-and-a-half 
fathoms, Flinders decided to finish the exploration in a 
rowing boat, accompanied by Surgeon Bell. They 
rowed along the shore till night fell, slept in the boat, 
and resumed the journey early next morning (March 
11th). At ten o'clock, the oars touched mud on each 
side, and it became impossible to proceed further. They 
had reached the head of the gulf, then a region of man- 
grove swamps and flat waters, but now covered by the 
wharves of Port Augusta, and within view of the start- 
ing point of the transcontinental railway. 

The disappointment was undoubtedly great at not 
finding even a large river flowing into the gulf. The 
hope of a strait had been abandoned as the continually 


converging shores, shallow waters, and diminishing 
banks made it clear, long before the head was reached, 
that the theory of a bifurcated Terra Australis was im- 
possible. But as Flinders completed his chart and 
placed it against the outline of the continent, he might 
fairly enjoy the happiness of having settled an import- 
ant problem and of taking one more stride towards com- 
pleting the map of the world. 

The Investigator travelled down by the eastern 
shore, once hanging upon a near bank for half an hour, 
and by March 20th was well outside. The length of 
the gulf, from the head to Gambier Island, Flinders 
calculated to be 185 miles, and its width at the mouth, 
in a line from Cape Catastrophe, 48 miles. At 
the top it tapered almost to a point. The whole of it 
was personally surveyed and charted by Flinders, who 
was able to write that for the general exactness of his 
drawing he could "answer with tolerable confidence, 
having seen all that is laid down, and, as usual, taken 
every angle which enters into the construction." 

The next discovery of importance was that of 
Kangaroo Island, separated from the foot-like southern 
projection of Yorke's Peninsula by Investigator Strait. 
The island was named on account of the quantity of 
kangaroos seen and shot upon it; for a supply of fresh 
meat was very welcome after four months of salt pork. 
Thirty-one fell to the guns of the Investigator's men. 
Half a hundredweight of heads, forequarters and tails 
were stewed down for soup, and as much kangaroo steak 
was available for officers and men as they could consume 
"by day and night." It was declared to be a "delight- 
ful regale." 

The place where Flinders is believed to have first 
landed on Kangaroo Island is now marked by a tall 
cairn, which was spontaneously built by the inhabitants, 
the school children assisting, in 1906. An inscription 


on a faced stone commemorates the event. The white 
pyramid can be seen from vessels using Backstairs 

A very short stay was made at Kangaroo Island on 
this first call. On March 24th Investigator Strait was 
crossed, and the examination of the mainland was re- 
sumed. The ship was steered north-west, and, the 
coast being reached, no land was visible to the eastward. 
The conclusion was drawn that another gulf ran inland, 
and the surmise proved to be correct. The new dis- 
covery, named St. Vincent's Gulf, was penetrated on the 
27th, and was first explored on the eastern shore, not on 
the western as had been the case with Spencer's Gulf. 
Mount Lofty was sighted at dawn on Sunday, March 
28th. The nearest part of the coast was three leagues 
distant at the time, "mostly low, and composed of sand 
and rock, with a few small trees scattered over it; but 
at a few miles inland, where the back mountains rise, the 
country was well clothed with forest timber, and had a 
fertile appearance. The fires bespoke this to be a part 
of the continent." The coast to the northward was 
seen to be very low, and the soundings were fast 
decreasing. From noon to six o'clock the Investigator 
ran north thirty miles, skirting a sandy shore, and at 
length dropped anchor in five fathoms. 

On the following morning land was seen to the west- 
ward, as well as eastward, and there was "a hummocky 
mountain, capped with clouds, apparently near the head 
of the inlet." Wind failing, very little progress was 
made till noon, and at sunset the shores appeared to be 
closing round. The absence of tide gave no prospect 
of finding a river at the head of the gulf. Early on the 
morning of the 30th Flinders went out in a boat, 

* See the account of the making of the cairn, by C. E. Owen 
Smythe, I.S.O., who initiated and superintended the work, boutti 
Australian Geographical Society's Proceedings, 1906, p. 58. 


accompanied by Robert Brown, and rowed up to the 
mud-flats at the head of the gulf. Picking out a narrow 
channel, it was found possible to get within half a mile 
of dry land. Then, leaving the boat, Flinders and 
Brown walked along a bank of mud and sand to the 
shore, to examine the country. Flinders ascended one 
of the foot-hills of the range that forms the backbone 
of York's Peninsula, stretching north and south upwards 
of two hundred miles. 

At dawn on March 31st the Investigator was got 
under way to proceed down the eastern side of Yorke's 
Peninsula. The wind was contrary, and the work could 
be done only "partially," though, of course, sufficiently 
well to complete the chart. The peninusla was des- 
cribed as "singular in form, having some resemblance to 
a very ill-shaped leg and foot." Its length from Cape 
Spencer to the northern junction with the mainland was 
calculated to be 105 miles. On April 1st Flinders was 
able to write that the exploration of St. Vincent's Gulf 
was finished. 

The general character of the country, especially on 
the east, he considered to be superior to that on the 
borders of Spencer's Gulf; and the subsequent develop- 
ment of the State of South Australia has justified his 
opinion. He would assuredly have desired to linger 
longer upon the eastern shore, could he have foreseen 
that within forty years of the discovery there would 
be laid there the foundations of the noble city of 
Adelaide, with its fair and fruitful olive-groves, vine- 
yards, orchards and gardens, and its busy port, whither 
flow the wheat of vast plains and the wool from a 
million sheep leagues upon leagues away. 

A second visit to Kangaroo Island was necessitated 
by a desire to make corrections in the Investigator's 
timekeepers, and on this occasion a somewhat longer 

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A/PFfhl.9*lfin? '802 %,-*&* 





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_ Jpe.-Pages_^ 






stay was made. The ship arrived on April 2nd, and 
did not leave again till the 7th. 

Very few aboriginals were seen upon the shores of 
the two gulfs, and these only through a telescope. At 
Port Lincoln some blacks were known to be in the 
neighbourhood, but the expedition did not succeed in 
getting into contact with them. Flinders scrupulously 
observed the policy of doing nothing to alarm them; 
and his remarks in this relation are characterised by as 
much good sense as humane feeling. Writing of a small 
party of natives who were heard calling but did not show 
themselves, probably having hidden in thick scrub to 
observe the boat's crew, he said : 

"No attempt was made to follow them, for I had 
always found the natives of this country to avoid those 
who seemed anxious for communication; whereas, when 
left entirely alone, they would usually come down after 
having watched us for a few days. Nor does this con- 
duct seem to be unnatural ; for what, in such case, would 
be the conduct of any people, ourselves for instance, 
were we living in a state of nature, frequently at war 
with our neighbours, and ignorant of the existence of 
any other nation? On the arrival of strangers so 
different in complexion and appearance to ourselves, 
having power to transplant themselves over, and even 
living upon, an element which to us was impossible, the 
first sensation would probably be terror, and the first 
movement flight. We should watch these extraordinary 
people from our retreats in the woods and rocks, and 
if we found ourselves sought and pursued by them, 
should conclude their designs to be inimical; but if, on 
the contrary, we saw them quietly employed in occupa- 
tions which had no reference to us, curiosity would get 
the better of fear, and after observing them more 
closely, we should ourselves risk a communication 
Such seemed to have been the conduct of these Aus- 


tralians;* and I am persuaded that their appearance on 
the morning when the tents were struck was a prelude 
to their coming down ; and that, had we remained a few 
days longer, a friendly communication would have en- 
sued. The way was, however, prepared for the next 
ship which may visit this port, as it was to us in King 
George's Sound by Captain Vancouver and the ship 
Elligood; to whose previous visits and peaceable con- 
duct we were most probably indebted for our early inter- 
course with the inhabitants of that place. So far as 
could be perceived with a glass, the natives of this port 
were the same in personal appearance as those of King 
George's Sound and Port Jackson. In the hope of con- 
ciliating their goodwill to succeeding visitors, some 
hatchets and various other articles were left in their 
paths, fastened to stumps of trees which had been cut 
down near our watering pits." 

More wild life was seen at Kangaroo Island than 
in the gulf region. Thirty emus were observed on one 
day; kangaroos, as has been remarked, were plentiful; 
and a large colony of pelicans caused the name of 
Pelican Lagoon to be given to a feature of the island's 
eastern lobe. The marsupial, the seal, the emu, and 
the bag-billed bird that nature built in one of her 
whimsical moods, had held unchallenged possession for 
tens of thousands of years, probably never visited by 
any ships, nor even preyed upon by blacks. The re- 
flections of Flinders upon Pelican Lagoon have a tint- 
ing of poetic feeling which we do not often find in his 
solid pages: 

"Flocks of the old birds were sitting upon the 
beaches of the lagoon, and it appeared that the islands 
were their breeding places; not only so, but from the 
number of skeletons and bones there scattered it should 

* The only occasion, I think, where Flinders uses this word. 
He usually called aboriginals "Indians." 


seem that they had for ages been selected for the closing 
scene of their existence. Certainly none more likely 
to be free from disturbance of every kind could have 
been chosen, than these inlets in a hidden lagoon of an 
uninhabited island, situate upon an unknown coast near 
the antipodes of Europe; nor can anything be more 
consonant to the feelings, if pelicans have any, than 
quietly to resign their breath whilst surrounded by their 
progeny, and in the same spot where they first drew it. 
Alas, for the pelicans! their golden age is past; but it 
has much exceeded in duration that of man." 

The picture of the zoological interests of Kangaroo 
Island is heightened by Flinders' account of the seals 
and marsupials. "Never perhaps has the dominion 
possessed here by the kangaroo been invaded before 
this time. The seal shared with it upon the shores, but 
they seemed to dwell amicably together. It not un- 
frequently happened that the report of a gun fired at a 
kangaroo, near the beach, brought out two or three 
bellowing seals from under bushes considerably further 
from the water side. The seal, indeed, seemed to be 
much the more discerning animal of the two; for its 
actions bespoke a knowledge of our not being kan- 
garoos, whereas the kangaroo not unfrequently 
appeared to consider us to be seals." In the quotation, 
it may be as well to add, the usual spelling of "kanga- 
roo" is followed, but Flinders invariably spelt it 
"kanguroo." The orthography of the word was not 
settled in his time; Cook wrote "kangooroo" and 
"kanguru," but Hawkesworth, who edited his voyages, 
made it "kangaroo." 

The quantity of fallen timber lying upon the island 
prompted the curiosity of Flinders. Trunks of trees 
lay about in all directions "and were nearly of the same 
size and in the same progress towards decay; from 
whence it would seem that they had not fallen from age 


nor yet been thrown down in a gale of wind. Some 
general conflagration, and there were marks apparently 
of fire on many of them, is perhaps the sole cause which 
can be reasonably assigned; but whence came the woods 
on fire? There were no inhabitants upon the island, 
and that the natives of the continent did not visit it was 
demonstrated, if not by the want of all signs of such 
visits, yet by the tameness of the kangaroo, an animal 
which, on the continent, resembles the wild deer in 
timidity. Perhaps lightning might have been the cause, 
or possibly the friction of two dead trees in a strong 
wind; but it would be somewhat extraordinary that the 
same thing should have happened at Thistle's Island, 
Boston Island, and at this place, and apparently about 
the same time. Can this part of Terra Australis have 
been visited before, unknown to the world? The 
French navigator, Laperouse, was ordered to ex- 
plore it, but there seems little probability that he ever 
passed Torres Strait. 

"Some judgment may be formed of the epoch when 
these conflagrations happened, from the magnitude of 
the growing trees; for they must have sprung up since 
that period. They were a species of eucalyptus, and 
being less than the fallen tree, had most probably not 
arrived at maturity; but the wood is hard and solid, 
and it may thence be supposed to grow slowly. With 
these considerations, I should be inclined to fix the 
period at not less than ten, nor more than twenty years 
before our arrival. This brings us back to Laperouse. 
He was in Botany Bay in the beginning of 1788, and, 
if he did pass through Torres Strait, and come round 
to this coast, as was his intention, it would probably be 
about the middle or latter end of that year, or between 
thirteen and fourteen years before the Investigator. 
My opinion is not favourable to this conjecture; but I 
have furnished all the data to enable the reader to form 


his own opinion upon the cause which might have pros- 
trated the woods of these islands." 

The passage is worth quoting, if only for the 
interesting allusion to Laperouse, whose fate was, at the 
time when Flinders sailed and wrote, an unsolved 
mystery of the sea. Captain Dillon's discovery of 
relics at Vanikoro, in 1826, twelve years after the death 
of Flinders, informed the world that the illustrious 
French navigator did not pass through Torres Strait, 
but was wrecked in the Santa Cruz group.* The fire, 
so many signs of which were observed on Kangaroo 
Island, was in all probability caused naturally in the 
heat of a dry summer. 

Very shorty after leaving Kangaroo Island Flinders 
met one of the vessels of the French exploring ex- 
pedition; and the story of that occurrence must occupy 
our particular consideration in the next chapter. 

* See the author's Laperouse, Sydney, 1912, pp. 90 et sqq. 

Chapter XV. 



Flinders did not complete the examination of 
Kangaroo Island. The approach of the winter season, 
and an apprehension that shortness of provisions might 
compel him to make for Port Jackson before concluding 
the discovery of the south coast, induced him to leave 
the south and west parts of the island, with the intention 
of making a second visit at a later time. Therefore, in 
the afternoon of Tuesday, April 6th, the anchor was 
weighed and he resumed the exploration of the main- 
land eastward from Cape Jervis, at the extremity of St. 
Vincent's Gulf. Wind and tide made against a rapid 
passage, and the east end of Kangaroo Island had not 
been cleared by eight o'clock on the following evening. 

At four o'clock on the afternoon of April 8th the 
sloop was making slow progress eastward, when the 
man aloft reported that a white rock was to be seen 
ahead. The attention of everybody on board was at 
once turned in the direction of the object. Very soon 
it became apparent that it was not a rock but a ship, 
which had sighted the Investigator, and was making 
towards her. As no sail had been seen for five months, 
and it seemed beyond all likelihood that another ship 
should be spoken in these uncharted seas, where there 
was no settlement, no port at which refreshment could 
be obtained, no possibility of trade, no customary mari- 
time route, it may be imagined that there was a feeling 
of excitement among the ship's company. Flinders ot 
course knew that the French had a discovery expedition 
somewhere in Australasian waters, and the fact that it 



had secured some months' start of him had occasioned 
a certain amount of anxiety before he left England. He 
was aware that it was protected by a passport from the 
British Government. The approaching vessel might 
be one of Baudin's; but she might by some strange 
chance be an enemy's ship of war. In any case, he pre- 
pared for emergencies : "we cleared for action in case of 
being attacked." 

Glasses were turned on the stranger, which proved 
on closer scrutiny to be "a heavy-looking ship, without 
any top-gallant masts up." The Investigator hoisted 
her colours — the Union Jack, it may be remarked, since 
that flag was adopted by Great Britain at the beginning 
of 1801, before the expedition sailed. The stranger 
put up the tricolour, "and afterwards an English Jack 
forward, as we did a white flag."* 

It has already been explained (Chapter XI.) that 
he Geographe, commanded by the commodore of the 
French expedition, separated from he Naturaliste at the 
eastern entrance to Bass Strait on March 7th and 8th, 
and that Baudin sailed through the Strait westward. 
We take up the thread again at that point, and will 
follow Baudin until he met Flinders. He was between 
Wilson's Promontory and Cape Otway from March 
28th to 31st, in very good weather. The most im- 
portant fact relating to this part of his voyage is that 
he missed the entrance to Port Phillip. In his letter to 

* Flinders relates the story of his meeting with Baudin, in his 
Voyage to Terra Australis, I., 188, and in letters to the Admiralty 
and to Sir Joseph Banks, printed in Historical Records of New 
South Wales, IV., 749 and 755. The official history of the French 
voyage was written by Francois Peron, and is printed in his 
Voyage de Decouvertes aux Terres Australes, I., 324. But Peron 
was not present at the interviews between Flinders and Baudin. 
Captain Baudin's own account of the incident is related in his 
manuscript diary, and in a long letter to the French Minister of 
Marine, dated "Port Jackson, 10th November, 1802," both 
of which are in the Archives Nationales, BB4, 995, Marine. 
These sources have been compared and used in the writing of 
this chapter. Baudin's narrative is translated in an appendix. 


the Minister of Marine, he described the Promontory 
and the situation of Westernport, and then proceeded 
to relate that "from the 9th to the 11th (of the month 
Germinal in the French Revolutionary calendar, by 
which of course Baudin dated events; equivalent to 
March 30- April 1st) the winds having been very 
favourable to us, we visited an extensive portion of the 
coast, where the land is high, well-wooded, and of an 
agreeable appearance, but does not present any place 
favourable to debarkation. All the points were exactly 
determined, and the appearance of the shores depicted." 
That describes the Cape Otway country; and the part 
of the letter which follows refers to the land on the west 
of the Otway. There is no word of any port being 
sighted. The letter agrees with what Baudin told 
Flinders, that "he had found no ports, harbours or 
inlets, or anything to interest"; and Flinders was subse- 
quently surprised to find that so large a harbour as Port 
Phillip had been missed by Baudin, "more especially as 
he had fine winds and weather."* Nevertheless, when 
Peron and Freycinet came to write the history of 
the French voyage — knowing then of the existence of 
Port Phillip, and having a chart of it before them — 
they very boldly claimed that they had seen it, and had 
distinguished its contours from the masthead, t a thing 
impossible to do from the situation in which they were. 

The company on board he Geographe were as 
excited about the ship sailing eastward, as were the 
Investigator's men when the reported white rock ahead 
proved to be the sails of another vessel. The French 
crew were in a distressingly sick condition. Scurvy had 
played havoc among them, much of the ship's meat was 
worm-eaten and stinking, and a large number of the 

* Flinders to Banks, Hist. Rec, IV., 755. 

t Voyage de Decouvertes, I., 316, and III., 115. 


crew were incapacitated. On the morning of April 8th 
some of Baudin's people had been engaged in harpoon- 
ing dolphins. They were desperately in need of fresh 
food, and a shoal of these rapid fish, appearing and 
playing around the prow, appeared to them "like a gift 
from heaven." Nine large dolphins had been caught, 
giving a happy promise of enough meat to last a day or 
two, when the man at the masthead reported that there 
was a sail in sight. At first Baudin was of opinion that 
the ship ahead was Le Naturaliste, rejoining company 
after a month's separation. But as the distance 
between the two ships diminished, and the Investigator 
ran up her ensign, her nationality was perceived, and 
Baudin hoisted the tricolour. 

The situation of the Investigator when she hove to 
was in 35° 40' south and 138° 58' east. The time was 
half-past five o'clock in the evening; the position about 
five miles south-west of the nearest bit of coast, in what 
Flinders called Encounter Bay, in commemoration of 
the event. Le Geographe passed the English ship with 
a free wind, and as she did so Flinders hailed her, en- 
quiring "Are you Captain Baudin?" "It is he," was the 
response. Flinders thereupon called out that he was 
very glad to meet the French explorer, and Baudin 
responded in cordial terms, without, however, knowing 
whom he was addressing. Still the wariness of the 
English captain was not to be lulled; he records, "we 
veered round as Le Geographe was passing, so as to 
keep our broadside to her, lest the flag of truce should 
be a deception." But being now satisfied of her good 
faith, Flinders brought his ship to the wind on the 
opposite tack, had a boat hoisted out, and prepared to 
go on board the French vessel. 

As Flinders did not speak French, he took with him 
Robert Brown, who was an accomplished French 
scholar. On board Le Geographe they were received 


by an officer, who indicated Baudin, and the three passed 
into the captain's cabin. 

It is curious that Baudin, in his letter to the Minister 
of Marine, makes no reference to the presence of Brown 
at this interview, and at a second which occurred on the 
following morning. He speaks of inviting Flinders to 
enter his cabin, and proceeds to allude to the conversa- 
tion which followed when they were "alone" ("nous 
trouvant seul") . But Flinders' statement, "as I did not 
understand French, Mr. Brown, the naturalist, went 
with me in the boat; we were received by an officer who 
pointed out the commander, and by him were conducted 
into the cabin," can have no other meaning than that 
Brown was present. He also says, further on in his 
narrative, "no person was present at our conversations 
except Mr. Brown, and they were mostly carried on in 
English, which the captain spoke so as to be under- 
stood." It may be that Baudin regarded Brown 
merely as an interpreter, but certainly his presence was 
a fact. 

In the cabin Flinders produced his passport from 
the French Government, and asked to see Baudin's 
from the Admiralty. Baudin found the document and 
handed it to his visitor, but did not wish to see the pass- 
port carried by Flinders. He put it aside without in- 

The conversation then turned upon the two voyages. 
Flinders explained that he had left England about eight 
months after the departure of the French ships, and 
that he was bound for Port Jackson. Baudin related 
the course of his voyage, mentioning his work in Van 
Diemen's Land, his passage through Bass Strait, and 
his run along the coast of what is now the State of 
Victoria, where he had not found "any river, inlet or 
other shelter which afforded anchorage." Flinders 
enquired about a large island said to lie in the western 


entrance to Bass Strait (that is, King Island), but 
Baudin said he had not seen it, and seemed to doubt 
whether it existed. Baudin observed in his letter that 
Flinders appeared to be pleased with this reply, "doubt- 
less in the hope of being able to make the discovery him- 

Baudin was very critical about an English chart of 
Bass Strait, published in 1800. He found fault with 
the representation of the north side, but commended the 
drawing of the south side, and of the neighbouring 
islands. Flinders pointed to a note upon the chart, ex- 
plaining that it was prepared from material furnished 
by George Bass, who had merely traversed the coast 
in a small open boat, and had had no good means of 
fixing the latitude and longitude; but he added that a 
rectified chart had since been published, and offered, if 
Baudin would remain in the neighbourhood during the 
night, to visit Le Geographe again in the morning, and 
bring with him a copy of this improved drawing, with 
a memorandum on the navigation of the strait. He 
was alluding to his own small quarto book of Observa- 
tions, published before he left England, as related in 
Chapter XII. Baudin accepted the offer with pleasure, 
and the two ships lay near together during the night. 

The story of the interviews, as related by the two 
captains, is not in agreement on several points, and the 
differences are not a little curious. Baudin states that 
he knew Flinders at the very beginning of the first 
interview, on April 8th: "Mr. Flinders, who com- 
manded the ship, presented himself, and as soon as I 
learnt his name I had no doubt that he, like ourselves, 
was occupied with the exploration of the south coast of 
New Holland." But Flinders affirms that Baudin did 
not learn his name until the end of the second interview 
on April 9th: "At parting ... on my asking the name 
of the captain of Le Naturaliste he bethought himself to 


ask mine; and finding it to be the same as the author of 
the chart which he had been criticising, expressed not 
a little surprise, but had the politeness to congratulate 
himself on meeting me." There may well have been 
some misunderstanding between the two captains, 
especially as Flinders did not speak French and Baudin 
only spoke English "so as to be understood," which, as 
experience teaches, usually means so as to be misunder- 
stood. It is not very likely that Baudin was unaware of 
the name of the English captain until the end of the 
second meeting. While the interview of April 8th was 
taking place in the cabin, Flinders' boatmen were 
questioned by some of he Geographers company who 
could speak English, and Peron tells us that the men 
related the story of the Investigator's voyage.* It is 
difficult to believe that Flinders' name would not be 
ascertained in this manner; equally difficult to believe 
that Captain Baudin would sustain two interviews with 
the commander of another ship without knowing to 
whom he was talking. In fact, Baudin had the name 
of Flinders before him on the Bass Strait chart which he 
had been criticising. It was a chart copied in Paris 
from an English print, and was inscribed as "levee par 
Flinders." Baudin in his letter to the Minister 
observed that he pointed out to Flinders errors in the 
chart "that he had given us." Flinders was of opinion 
that Baudin criticised the chart without knowing that he 
was the author of it. Baudin may have been surprised 
at first to learn that the Captain Flinders with whom he 
was conversing was the same as he whose name appeared 
on the chart; but his own statement that he knew the 
name at the first interview appears credible. 

Again, Baudin was of opinion that at the first inter- 

* Peron, Voyage de Decouvertes, I., 323. Flinders also said 
that "some of his officers learnt from my boat's crew that our 
object was also discovery." 


view Flinders was "reserved"; whilst Flinders, on the 
other hand, was surprised that Baudin "made no en- 
quiries concerning my business on this unknown coast, 
but as he seemed more desirous of communicating in- 
formation I was happy to receive it." Reading the two 
narratives together, it is not apparent either that 
Flinders wished to be reserved or that Baudin lacked 
curiosity as to what the Investigator had been doing. 
The probable explanation is that the two men were not 
understanding each other perfectly. 

At half-past six o'clock on the morning of April 9th 
Flinders again visited Le Geographe, where he break- 
fasted with Baudin.* On this occasion they talked 
freely about their respective voyages, and, said the 
French commodore, "he appeared to me to have been 
happier than we were in the discoveries he had made." 
Flinders pointed out Cape Jervis, which was in sight, 
related the discovery of Spencer's and St. Vincent's 
Gulfs, and described Kangaroo Island, with its abund- 
ance of fresh food and water. He handed to Baudin 
a copy of his little book on Bass Strait and its accom- 
panying chart, related the story of the loss of John 
Thistle and his boat's crew, and listened to an account 
which his host gave of a supposed loss of one of his own 
boats with a number of men on the east coast of Van 
Diemen's Land. Baudin intimated that it was likely 
that Flinders, in sailing east, would fall in with the miss- 
ing Naturaliste, and he requested that, should this 
occur, the captain of that ship might be informed that 
Baudin intended to sail to Port Jackson as soon as the 
bad winter weather set in. Flinders himself had 
invited Baudin to sail to Sydney to refresh, mentioning 
that he would be able to obtain whatever assistance he 

* Flinders does not mention this circumstance ; but as he boarded 
Le Geographe at 6.30 in the morning and did not return to the 
Investigator till 8.30, Baudin's statement is not doubtful. 


required there. The interview was thoroughly cordial, 
and the two captains parted with mutual expressions of 
goodwill. Flinders and Brown returned to the Investi- 
gator at half-past eight o'clock. 

Seaman Smith has nothing new to tell us concerning 
the Encounter Bay incident, but his brief reference is of 
some interest as showing how it struck a member of the 
Investigator crew, and may be cited for that purpose. 
"In the morning (9th April) we unmoord and stood 
for sea between Van Diemen's Land and New Holland. 
In the afternoon we espied a sail which loomd large. 
Cleared forequarters, not knowing what might be the 
consequence. On the ship coming close, our captn 
spoke her. She proved to be the Le Geography (sic) 
French ship upon investigation. Our boats being 
lowerd down our captn went on board of her, and soon 
returnd. Both ships lay to untill the next morning, when 
our captn went on board of her and soon returnd. We 
found her poorly mannd, having lost a boat and crew 
and several that run away. Her acct. was that they 
had parted compy with the Naturalizer (sic) on investi- 
gation in a gale of wind. Have been from France 18 
months. On the 20th we parted compy." 

Baudin sailed for Kangaroo Island, where his men 
enjoyed a similar feast to that which had delighted the 
English sailors a little while before. But the scurvy- 
stricken condition of his crew made the pursuit of ex- 
ploration painful, and he did not continue on these 
coasts beyond another month. On May 8th he 
abandoned the work for the time being, resolving to 
pay a second visit to the region of the gulfs after he had 
refreshed his people. Sailing for Sydney, he arrived 
there on June 20th, in circumstances that it will be con- 
venient to relate after describing the remainder of the 
voyage of the Investigator up to her arrival in the same 

Chapter XVI. 


Flinders' actual discovery work on the south coast was 
completed when he met Baudin in Encounter Bay; for 
the whole coast line to the east had been found a 
short while before he appeared upon it, though he was 
not aware of this fact when completing his voyage. For 
about a hundred and fifty miles, from the mouth of the 
Murray eastward to Cape Banks, the credit of dis- 
covery properly belongs to Baudin, and Flinders duly 
marked his name upon the chart. Further eastward, 
from Cape Banks to the deep bend of the coast at the 
head of which lies Port Phillip, the discoverer was 
Captain Grant of the Lady Nelson. His voyage was 
projected under the following circumstances. 

When Philip Gidley King, who in 1800 succeeded 
Hunter as Governor of New South Wales, was in Eng- 
land in 1799, he represented to the Admiralty the 
desirability of sending out to Australia a small, 
serviceable ship, capable of being used in shallow 
waters, so that she might explore bays and rivers. One 
of the Commissioners of the Transport Board, Captain 
John Schanck, had designed a type of vessel that was 
considered suitable for this purpose. She was to be 
fitted with a sliding keel, or centreboard, and was 
deemed to be a boat of staunch sea-going qualities, as 
well as being good for close-in coastal service. A sixty- 
ton brig, the Lady Nelson, was built to Schanck's plans, 
and was entrusted to the command of Lieutenant Grant. 
She was tried in the Downs in January, 1800, when 
Grant reported enthusiastically on her behaviour. She 
rode out a gale in five fathoms of water without ship- 


ping "even a sea that would come over the sole of your 
shoe." Running her into Ramsgate in a heavy sea, 
Grant wrote of her in terms that, though somewhat 
crabbed to a non-nautical ear, were a sailor's equivalent 
for fine poetry: "though it blew very strong, I found the 
vessel stand well up under sail, and with only one reef 
out of the topsails, no jib set, a lee tide going, when 
close hauled she brought her wake right aft and went at 
the rate of five knots." 

Grant was ambitious to make discoveries on his 
own account, and did not lack zeal. He was a skilful 
sailor, but was lacking in the scientific accomplishment 
required for the service in which he aspired to shine. 
When at length he returned from Australia, King 
summed him up in a sentence: "I should have been glad 
if your ability as a surveyor, or being able to determine 
the longitude of the different places you might visit, 
was any ways equal to your ability as an officer and a 

Grant left England early in 1800, intending to sail 
to Australia by the usual route, making the Cape of 
Good Hope, and then rounding the south of Van Die- 
men's Land. But news of the discovery of Bass Strait 
was received after the Lady Nelson had put to sea; and 
the Admiralty (April, 1800) sent instructions to reach 
him at the Cape, directing him to sail through the strait 
from the west. This he did. Striking the Australian 
coast opposite Cape Banks on December 3rd, 1800, he 
followed it along past Cape Otway, thence in a line 
across to Wilson's Promontory and, penetrating the 
strait, was the first navigator to work through it from 
the far western side. He attempted no survey, and 
shortness of water and provisions deterred him from 
even pursuing the in-and-out curves of the shore; but 
he marked down upon a rough eye-sketch such promi- 
nent features as Mount Gambier, Cape Northumber- 


land, Cape Bridgewater, Cape Nelson, Portland Bay, 
Julia Percy Island, and Cape Otway. "I took the 
liberty of naming the different capes, bays, etc., for the 
sake of distinction," he reported to the Governor on his 
arrival at Sydney on December 16th. 

It was in this way that both Baudin and Flinders 
were anticipated in the discovery of the western half of 
the coast of Victoria. The Investigator voyage had not 
been planned when the Lady Nelson sailed; and when 
Flinders was commissioned the Admiralty directed that 
Grant should be placed under his orders, the brig being 
used as a tender. 

The baffling winds that had delayed Flinders' 
departure from Kangaroo Island on April 8th, 1802, 
continued after he sailed from Encounter Bay, so that 
he did not pass the fifty leagues or so first traversed by 
Le Geographe for eight tedious days. On April 17th 
he reached Grant's Cape Banks; on April 18th passed 
Cape Northumberland; and on the 19th Capes Bridge- 
water, Nelson and Grant. But the south-west gale 
blew so hard during this part of the voyage that, the 
coast trending south-easterly, it was difficult to keep the 
ship on a safe course; and Flinders confessed that he 
was "glad to miss a small part of the coast." Thick 
squally weather prevented the survey being made with 
safety; and, indeed, it was rarely that the configuration 
of the land could be distinguished at a greater distance 
than two miles. On the 21st Flinders noticed a subsi- 
dence of the sea, which made him conclude that he was 
to the windward of the large island concerning which 
he had questioned Baudin. He resolved to take ad- 
vantage of a period when the close examination of the 
mainland had become dangerous to determine the exact 
position of this island, of whose whereabouts he had 
heard from sealers in 1799. 


The south part of King Island had been found by 
the skipper of a sealing brig, named Reid, in 1799, but 
the name it bears was given to it by John Black, com- 
mander of the brig Harbinger, who discovered the 
northern part in January, 1801. Flinders was occu- 
pied for three days at King Island. On the 24th, the 
wind having moderated, he made for Cape Otway. 
But it was still considered imprudent to follow the shore 
too closely against a south-east wind; and on the 26th 
the ship ran across the water to Grant's Cape Schanck. 

The details of these movements are of some 
moment, for the ship was nearing the gates of Port 
Phillip. "We bore away westward," Flinders records, 
"in order to trace the land round the head of the deep 
bight." In view of the importance of the harbour 
which he was about to enter, we may quote his own 
description of his approach to it, and his surprise at 
what he found: 

"On the west side of the rocky point,* there was a 
small opening, with breaking water across it. How- 
ever, on advancing a little more westward the opening 
assumed a more interesting aspect, and I bore away to 
have a nearer view. A large extent of water presently 
became visible withinside, and although the entrance 
seemed to be very narrow, and there were in it strong 
ripplings like breakers, I was induced to steer in at half- 
past one; the ship being close upon a wind and every 
man ready for tacking at a moment's warning. The 
soundings were irregular, between 6 and 12 fathoms, 
until we got four miles within the entrance, when they 
shoaled quick to 2f. We then tacked; and having a 
strong tide in our favour, worked to the eastward, 
between the shoal and the rocky point, with 12 fathoms 

* Point Nepean. 


for the deepest water. In making the last stretch from 
the shoal, the depth diminished from 10 fathoms 
quickly to 3 ; and before the ship could come round, the 
flood tide set her upon a mud bank and she stuck fast. 
A boat was lowered down to sound; and, finding the 
deep water lie to the north-west, a kedge anchor was 
carried out; and, having got the ship's head in that 
direction, the sails were filled, and she drew off into 6 
and 10 fathoms; and it being then dark, we came to an 

"The extensive harbour we had thus unexpectedly 
found I supposed must be Westernport; although the 
narrowness of the entrance did by no means correspond 
with the width given to it by Mr. Bass. It was the in- 
formation of Captain Baudin, who had coasted along 
from thence with fine weather, and had found no inlet 
of any kind, which induced this supposition; and the 
very great extent of the place, agreeing with that of 
Westernport, was in confirmation of it. This, how- 
ever, was not Westernport, as we found next morning; 
and I congratulated myself on having made a new and 
useful discovery. But here again I was in error. This 
place, as I afterwards learned at Port Jackson, had 
been discovered ten weeks before by Lieutenant John 
Murray, who had succeeded Captain Grant in the com- 
mand of the Lady Nelson. He had given it the name 
of Port Phillip, and to the rocky point on the east side 
of the entrance that of Point Nepean." 

It was characteristic of Flinders that he allowed no 
expression of disappointment to escape him, on finding 
that he had been anticipated by a few weeks in the dis- 
covery of Port Phillip. Baudin, it will be remembered, 
observed the satisfaction felt by his visitor in En- 
counter Bay, when he learnt that Le Geographe had 
not found King Island, because he thought he would 


have the happiness of being the first to lay it down upon 
a chart. In this he had been forestalled by Black of 
the Harbinger; and now again he was to find that a pre- 
decessor had entered the finest harbour in southern 
Australia. Disappointment he must have felt; but he 
was by no means the man to begrudge the success that 
had accrued to another navigator. He made no re- 
mark, such as surely might have been forgiven to him, 
about the determining accidents of time and weather; 
though it is but right for us to observe that, had the 
Investigator been permitted to sail from England when 
she was ready (in April, 1801 ) instead of being delayed 
by the Admiralty officials till July, Port Phillip, as well 
as the stretch of coast discovered by Baudin, would 
have been found by Flinders. That delay was caused 
by nothing more than a temporary illness of the Sec- 
retary of the Admiralty, Evan Nepean, whose name is 
commemorated in Point Nepean, one of the headlands 
flanking the entrance to the Port. 

A perfectly just recognition of the real significance 
of Flinders in southern exploration has led to his 
name being honoured and commemorated even with re- 
spect to parts where he was not the actual discoverer. 
It is a function of history to do justice in the large, 
abiding sense, discriminating the spiritual potency of 
personalities that dominate events from the accidental 
connection of lesser persons with them. In that wider 
sense, Flinders was the true discoverer of the whole of 
the southern coast of Australia. He, of course, made 
no such claim; but we who estimate the facts after a 
long lapse of years can see clearly that it was so. Only 
the patching up of the old Reliance kept him in Sydney 
while Bass was creeping round the coast to Westernport. 
Only the illness of an official and other trifling causes 
prevented him from discovering Port Phillip. It was 
the completion of his chart of Bass Strait, based upon 


his friend's memoranda, that led the Admiralty to 
direct Grant to sail through the strait from the west, 
and so enabled him to be the first to come upon the 
coast from Cape Banks to Cape Schanck. It was only 
the delay before-mentioned and the contrary winds that 
hindered him from preceding Baudin along the fifty 
leagues that are credited to that navigator. 

Thus it is that although not a league of the coastline 
of Victoria is in strict verity to be attributed to Flinders 
as discoverer, he is habitually cited as if he were. Places 
are named after him, memorials are erected to him. 
The highest mountain in the vicinity of Port Phillip 
carries on its summit a tablet celebrating the fact that 
Flinders entered the port at the end of April, 1802; 
but there is nowhere a memorial to remind anyone that 
Murray actually discovered it in January of the same 
year. The reason is that, while it is felt that time and 
circumstance enabled others to do things which must be 
inscribed on the historical page, the triumph that should 
have followed from skill, knowledge, character, pre- 
paration and opportunities well and wisely used, was 
fairly earned by Flinders. The dates, not the merits, 
prevent their being claimed for him. His personality 
dominates the whole group of discoveries. We chron- 
icle the facts in regard to Grant, Baudin, Murray, and 
Bass, but we feel all the time that Flinders was the cen- 
tral man. 

Not being aware of Murray's good fortune in 
January, Flinders treated Port Phillip as a fresh dis- 
covery, and examined its approaches with as much 
thoroughness as his resources would allow. At this 
time, however, the store of provisions was running low. 
The Investigator was forty weeks out from England^^ 
and re-equipment was fast becoming imperative. Her 
commander had felt the urgency of his needs before he 


reached Port Phillip. He had seriously considered 
whether he should not make for Sydney from King 
Island. "I determined, however, to run over to the 
high land we had seen on the north side of Bass Strait, 
and to trace as much of the coast from thence eastward 
as the state of the weather and our remaining provisions 
could possibly allow." 

As related in the passage quoted above, Flinders at 
first thought he had reached Westernport, though the 
narrowness of the entrance did not correspond with 
Bass's description of the harbour he had discovered 
four years previously. But Baudin had told him that 
he found no port or harbour of any kind between 
Westernport and Encounter Bay. Consequently, it 
was all the more astonishing to behold this great sheet 
of blue water broadening out to shores overlooked by 
high hills, and extending northward further than the eye 
could penetrate. It was not until the following day, 
April 27th, that he found he was not in the port which 
his friend had discovered in the whaleboat. Immedi- 
ately after breakfast he rowed away from the ship in 
a boat, accompanied by Brown and Westall, to ascend 
the bluff mountain on the east side which Murray had 
named Arthur's Seat. From the top he was able to 
survey the landscape at a height of a thousand feet; 
and then he saw the waters and islands of Westernport 
lying beneath him only a few miles further to the east, 
whilst, to his surprise, the curves of Port Phillip were 
seen to be so extensive "that even at this elevation its 
boundary to the northward could not be distinguished." 

Next morning, April 28th, Flinders commenced to 
sail round the bay. But the wind was slight and pro- 
gress was slow; with his fast diminishing store of 
provisions vexing his mind, he felt that he could not 
afford the time for a complete survey. Besides, the lead 
showed many shallows, and there was a constant fear 


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of running the ship aground. He therefore directed 
Fowler to take the Investigator back to the entrance, 
whilst, on the 29th, he went with Midshipman Lacy, in 
a boat provisioned for three days, to make a rapid 
reconnaissance of as much as could be seen in that time. 
He rowed north-east nine miles from Arthur's Seat, 
reaching about the neighbourhood of Mornington. 
Then he crossed to the western side of the bay, and on 
the 30th traversed the opening of the arm at the head 
of which Geelong now stands. 

At dawn on May 1st he landed with three of the 
boat's crew, for the purpose of ascending the highest 
point of the You-yang range, whose conical peaks, stand- 
ing up purple against the evening sky, had been visible 
when the ship first entered Port Phillip. "Our way was 
over a low plain, where the water appeared frequently to 
lodge. It was covered with small-bladed grass, but al- 
most destitute of wood, and the soil was clayey and 
shallow. One or two miles before arriving at the feet 
of the hills, we entered a wood, where an emu and a 
kangaroo were seen at a distance; and the top of the 
peak was reached at ten o'clock." 

From the crest of this granite mountain he would 
command a superb view. Towards the north, in the 
interior, the dark bulk of Mount Macedon was seen; 
and all around lay a fertile, promising country, mile 
after mile of green pastures, as fair a prospect as the 
eye could wish to rest upon. There can be little doubt 
that Flinders made his observations from the flat top 
of a huge granite boulder which forms the apex of the 
peak. "I left the ship's name," he says, "on a scroll of 
paper deposited in a small pile of stones upon the top 
of the peak." He called it Station Peak, for the reason 
that he had made it his station for making observations. 
In 1912 a fine bronze tablet was fastened on the eastern 


face of the boulder on which Flinders probably stood 
and worked.* 

The boat was reached, after the descent of the 
mountain and the return tramp across the sodden flats, 
at three o'clock in the afternoon. The party were very 
weary from this twenty-mile excursion, a feat requiring 
some power of endurance, as one who has walked along 
the same route and climbed Station Peak several times 
can testify; and especially hard on men who were fresh 
from a long voyage. The party camped for the night 
at Indented Head, on the west side of the port, and 
on Sunday, May 2nd, they again boarded the Investi- 

The ship was anchored under the shelter of the 
Nepean Peninsula, nearly opposite the present Portsea. 
On the way back Flinders shot "some delicate teal," 
near the piece of water which Murray had called Swan 
Harbour, and a few black swans were caught. 

Port Phillip has since become important as the seat 
of one of the great cities of the world, and its channels 
are used by commercial fleets flying every colour known 
to the trading nations. Scarcely an hour of the day 
goes by, but the narrow waters dividing the port from 
the ocean are churned by the propellers of great ships. 

*It is much to be regretted, that this very laudable mark of 
honour to his memory was not effected without doing a thing 
which is contrary to a good rule and was repugnant to Flinders' 
practice. The name Station Peak was sought to be changed 
to Flinders' Peak, and those who so admirably occasioned the 
erection of the tablet managed to secure official sanction 
for the alteration by its notification in the Victorian Govern- 
ment Gazette. But nobody with any historical sense or proper 
regard for the fame of Flinders will ever call the mountain by 
any other name than Station Peak. It was his name; and 
names given by a discoverer should be respected, except when 
there is a sound reason to the contrary, as there is not in this 
instance. As previously observed, Flinders never named any 
discovery after himself. Honour him by calling any other 
places after him by all means; the name Flinders for the Com- 
monwealth Naval Base in Westernport is an excellent one, for 
instance. But his names for natural features should not be 


The imagination sets itself a task in trying to realize 
those few days in May, 1802, when Flinders called it 
a "useful but obscure port"and when the only keels that 
lay within the bay were those of one small sloop at an- 
chor near the entrance, and one tiny boat in which her 
captain was rowing over the surface and making a map 
of the outline. And if it is difficult for us to recapture 
that scene of spacious solitude, it was quite impossible 
for Flinders to foresee what a century would bring 
forth. He recognised that the surrounding country 
"has a pleasing and in many places a fertile appearance." 
He described much of it as patently fit for agricultural 
purposes. "It is in great measure a grassy country, and 
capable of supporting much cattle, though much better 
calculated for sheep." It was, indeed, largely on his 
report that settlement was attempted at Port Phillip in 
1803. But it is quaint, at this time of day, to read his 
remark that "were a settlement made at Port Phillip, as 
doubtless there will be some time hereafter, the entrance 
could be easily distinguished, and it would not be diffi- 
cult to establish a friendly intercourse with the natives, 
for they are acquainted with the effect of firearms, and 
desirous of possessing many of our conveniences." 

Seaman Smith devotes a paragraph in his Journal 
to the visit to Port Phillip, and it may as well be quoted 
for its historical interest: "On the 28th we came to an 
anchor in a bay of very large size. Thinking there was 
a good channel in a passage through, we got aground ; 
but by good management we got off without damadge. 
Here we caught a Shirk which measured 10 feet 9 inch 
in length ; in girt very large. 29th the captn and boats 
went to investigate the interior part of the harbr for 3 
days, while those on board imploy'd in working ship to 
get as near the mouth of the harbr as possible. May 2nd 
our boat and crew came on board. Brought with them 
2 swanns and a number of native spears." 


At daylight on May 3rd the Investigator dropped 
out of Port Phillip with the tide. Westall, the artist, 
made a drawing of the heads from a distance of 5 miles. 

At dusk on Saturday, May 8th, she stood seven 
miles off the entrance to Port Jackson. Flinders was 
so thoroughly well acquainted with the harbour that he 
tried to beat up in the night; but the wind was adverse, 
and he did not pass the heads till one o'clock on the 
following day. At three o'clock the ship was brought 
to anchor, and the long voyage of discovery, which had 
had* larger results than any voyage since the great days 
of Cook, was over. It had lasted nine months and nine 

The horrors of scurvy were such a customary ac- 
companiment of long voyages in those days that the 
condition of Flinders' company at the termination of 
this protracted navigation was healthy almost beyond 
precedent. But this young captain had learnt how to 
manage a ship in Cook's school, and had profited from 
his master's admonitions. Cook, in his Endeavour voy- 
age of 1770-1, brought his people through a protracted 
period at sea with, "generally speaking," freedom from 
scurvy, and showed how by scrupulous cleanliness, plenty 
of vegetable food, and anti-scorbutic remedies the dread- 
ful distemper could be kept at bay. But, fine as Cook's 
record is in this respect, it is eclipsed by that of Flinders, 
who entered Port Jackson at the end of this long period 
aboard ship with an absolutely clean bill of health. 
There is no touch of pride, but there is a note of very 
proper satisfaction, in the words which he was able to 
write of this remarkable record : — 

"There was not a single individual on board who 
was not on deck working the ship into harbour; and it 
may be averred that the officers and crew were, gener- 
ally speaking, in better health than on the day we sailed 
from Spithead, and not in less good spirits. I have 


said nothing of the regulations observed after we made 
Cape Leeuwin. They were very little different from 
those adopted in the commencement of the voyage, and 
of which a strict attention to cleanliness and a free 
circulation of air in the messing and sleeping places 
formed the most essential parts. Several of the 
inhabitants of Port Jackson expressed themselves never 
to have been so strongly reminded of England as by the 
fresh colour of many amongst the Investigator's ship's 

As soon as the anchor was dropped, Flinders went 
ashore and reported himself to Governor King, to whom 
he delivered his orders from the Admiralty. He also 
reported to Captain Hamelin of he Naturaliste, who 
had sought refuge in the port and had been lying there 
since April 24th, the intention of Baudin to bring round 
he Geographe in due course. Then he set about making 
preparations for refitting the ship and getting ready for 
further explorations. 

Chapter XVII. 


The condition of Le Geographe when she made her 
appearance outside Port Jackson, on June 20th, 1802, 
was in striking and instructive contrast with that of the 
Investigator on her entry forty-two days before. Flin- 
ders had not a sick man on board. His crew finished the 
voyage a company of bronzed, jolly, hearty sailors, fit 
for any service. Baudin, on the contrary, had not a single 
man on board who was free from disease. His men 
were "covered with sores and putrid ulcers;" the sur- 
geon, Taillefer, found the duty of attending upon them 
revolting; they lay groaning about the decks in misery 
and pain, and only four were available for steering and 
management, themselves being reduced almost to the 
extremity of debility. "Not a soul among us was 
exempt from the affliction," wrote the commandant in 
his journal. 

The utmost difficulty had been experienced in work- 
ing the vessel round the south of Van Diemen's Land 
and up the east coast in tempestuous weather. Baudin 
obstinately refused, in the teeth of the urgent recom- 
mendation of his officers, to sail through Bass Strait, 
and thus save several days; though, as he had already 
negotiated the strait from the east, he knew the navigat- 
ion, and the distressful condition of his people should 
have impelled him to choose a route which would take 
them to succour in the briefest period of time. He in- 
sisted on the longer course, and in consequence brought 
his ship to the very verge of disaster, besides intensify- 
ing the sufferings of his crew. The voyage from the 



region of the gulfs to the harbour of refuge was full of 
pain and peril. Man after man dropped out. The sailors 
were unable to trim the sails properly; steersmen fell at 
the wheel; they could not walk or lift their limbs with- 
out groaning in agony. It was a plague ship that crept 
round to Port Jackson Heads in that month of storms : 
" And as a full field charging was the sea, 
And as a cry of slain men was the wind." 

All this bitter suffering was caused because, as the 
official historian of the expedition tells us, Baudin 
"neglected the most indispensable precautions relative to 
the health of the men." He disregarded instructions 
which had been furnished with reference to hygiene, 
paid no heed to the experience of other navigators, and 
permitted practices which could not but conduce to 
disease. His illustrious predecessor, Laperouse, a true 
pupil of Cook, had conducted a long voyage with fine 
immunity from scurvy, and Baudin could have done the 
same had he possessed valid qualifications for his em- 

There is no satisfaction in dwelling upon the pitiful 
condition to which Baudin's people were reduced; but 
it is necessary to set out the facts clearly, because the 
visit paid by he Geographe and he Naturaliste to Syd- 
ney, and what the French officers did there, is of the 
utmost importance in relation to what happened to 
Flinders at a later date. 

Baudin brought his vessel up to the entrance to the 
harbour on June 20th, but so feeble were his crew that 
they could not work her into port. It was reported 
that a ship in evident distress was outside, and at once 
a boat's crew of Flinders' men from the Investigator 
was sent down to assist in towing her to an anchorage. 
"It was grievous," Flinders said, "to see the miserable 
condition to which both officers and men were reduced 


by scurvy, there being not more out of one hundred and 
seventy, according to the Captain's account, than twelve 
men capable of doing their duty." Baudin's own jour- 
nal says they were only four; but, whatever the number 
may have been, even these were sick, and could only 
perform any kind of work under the whip of absolute 
necessity. All the sufferers were attended with "the 
most touching activity" by the principal surgeon of the 
settlement, James Thomson. 

The resources of Sydney at that time were slender, 
but such as they were Governor King immediately 
placed them at the disposal of the French commodore. 
The sick were removed to the hospital, permission was 
given to pitch tents close to where the Investigator's 
were erected, at Cattle Point on the east side of Sydney 
Cove,* and everything was done to extend a cordial 
welcome to the visitors. "Although," wrote the Gov- 
ernor to Baudin, "last night I had the pleasure of an- 
nouncing that a peace had taken place between our 
respective countries, yet a continuance of the war 
would have made no difference in my reception of your 
ship, and affording every relief and assistance in my 
power; and, although you will not find abundant sup- 
plies of what are most requisite and acceptable to those 
coming off so long a voyage, yet I offer you a sincere 
welcome. I am much concerned to find from Monsieur 
Ronsard that your ship's company are so dreadfully 
afflicted with the scurvy. I have sent the Naval Officer 
with every assistance to get the ship into a safe anchor- 
age. I beg you would give yourself no concern 
about saluting. When I have the honour of seeing you, 
we will then concert means for the relief of your sick." 
That was, truly, a letter replete in every word of it 

* Flinders, Voyage, I., 227. The "Cattle Point" of Flinders 
is the present Fort Macquarie, or Bennelong Point, behind which 
Government House stands. 


with manly gentleness, generous humanity and hospit- 
able warmth. The same spirit was maintained through- 
out of the six months of the Frenchmen's stay at Port 
Jackson. King even reduced the rations of his own 
people in order that he might have enough to share with 
the strangers. Fresh meat was so scarce in the colony 
that when the Investigator arrived Flinders could not 
buy any for his men; but as soon as the French 
appeared, King, pitying their plight, at once ordered the 
slaughtering of some oxen belonging to the Government 
in order that they might be fed on fresh food. Baudin 
was daily at the Governor's house,* and King enter- 
tained his officers frequently. His tact was as con- 
spicuous as his good nature. Baudin was not on good 
terms with some of his officers, and the Governor was 
made aware of this fact. He conducted himself as 
host with a resourceful consideration for the feelings of 
his quarrelsome guests. And as the Governor com- 
ported himself towards them, so also did the leading 
people of Sydney. "Among all the French officers 
serving in the division which I command," wrote 
Baudin, "there is not one who is not, like myself, con- 
vinced of the indebtedness in which we stand to 
Governor King and the principal inhabitants of the 
colony for the courteous, affectionate, and distinguished 
manner in which they have received us." 

Not only on the social side was this extreme kind- 
ness displayed. King did everything in his power to 
further the scientific purposes of the expedition and to 
complete the re-equipment of Baudin's ships. Le 
Geographe required to be careened, and to have her 
copper lining extensively repaired. Facilities were at 
once granted for effecting these works. Baudin, intend- 
ing to send Le Naturaliste back to France with natural 

* Historical Records, IV., 952. 


history specimens and reports up to date, desired to pur- 
chase a small Australian-built vessel to accompany him 
on the remainder of his voyage. King gave his con- 
sent, "as it is for the advancement of science and navi- 
gation," and the Casuarina, a locally-built craft of 
between 40 and 50 tons, was acquired for the purpose. 
The French men of science were assisted in making ex- 
cursions into the country in prosecution of their re- 
searches. Baudin refused the application of his geo- 
logist, Bailly, who wished to visit the Hawkesbury 
River and the mountains to collect specimens and study 
the natural formation. The British, thereupon, fur- 
nished him with boats, guides and even food for the 
journey, since his own commander declined to supply 
him. Peron, the naturalist, who afterwards wrote the 
history of the voyage, was likewise afforded opportuni- 
ties for travelling in prosecution of his studies, and the 
disreputable use which he made of the freedom allowed 
to him will presently appear. 

There is no reason to believe that any of the French 
officers, or the men of science on Baudin's staff, abused 
the hospitality so nobly extended to them, with two ex- 
ceptions. The conduct of the crew appears to have 
been exemplary. Baudin himself won King's confi- 
dence, and was not unworthy of it. His demeanour 
was perfectly frank. "Entre nous," wrote King to 
Banks in May, 1803, "he showed me and left with me 
all his journals, in which were contained all his orders 
from the first idea of the voyage taking place. . . . He 
informed me that he knew of no idea that the French 
had of settling on any part or side of this continent." 

After the departure of the two ships, on November 
17th, a rumour came to the Governor's ears that some 
of the French officers had informed Lieutenant-Colonel 
Paterson that it was their intention to establish a settle- 
ment on Dentrecasteaux Channel in the south of Van 


Diemen's Land. The news occasioned grave anxiety 
to King, who immediately took steps to frustrate any 
such plans. He sent acting-Lieutenant Robbins in the 
Cumberland in pursuit of Baudin, informing him of 
what was alleged, and calling upon him for an explana- 
tion. Baudin positively denied that he had entertained 
such an intention; and certainly he had not acted, after 
leaving Port Jackson, as if he had the design to lay the 
foundations of a settlement at the place specified, for he 
had not sailed anywhere near southern Van Diemen's 
Land. He had made direct for King Island, and was 
quietly continuing his exploratory work when Robbins 
found him. This vague and unsubstantial rumour, 
which Paterson had not even taken the trouble to report 
officially to the Governor when he heard it, was the 
only incident with which Baudin was connected that 
gave King any cause to doubt his perfect good faith; 
and Baudin's categorical denial of the allegation is 
fully confirmed by his diary and correspondence — now 
available for study — which contain no particle of evi- 
dence to suggest that the planting of a settlement, or 
the choice of a site for one, was a purpose of the 

Baudin's gratitude for King's hospitality was ex- 
pressed in a cordial personal letter, and also in an open 
letter which he addressed to the Governors of the 
French colonies of Ile-de-France and Reunion. Twelve 
copies of the letter were left in King's hands, to be 
given by him to the captain of any British ships that 
might have occasion to put in to any port in those 
colonies. Blanks were left in the letter, to be filled up 
by King, with the name of the captain to whom he 
might give a copy and the name of the ship.* In this 

* Mr. F. M. Bladen, in a note appended to a copy of this 
interesting letter, in the Historical Records of New South Wales, 
Vol. 4, p. 968 says: "The letter was handed to Governor King 
by Commodore Baudin, in case it should be required, but was 


document, it will be noticed, Baudin was bespeaking 
from representatives of his country in their own 
colonies such consideration as he had experienced from 
his British hosts at Sydney. The fulness of his obliga- 
tion could scarcely have been expressed in more 
thorough terms: 

"The assistance we have found here, the kindness of 
Governor King towards us, his generous attentions for 
the recovery of our sick men, his love for the progress 
of science, in short, everything seemed to have united 
to make us forget the hardships of a long and painful 
voyage, which was often impeded by the inclemency of 
the weather; and yet the fact of the peace being signed 
was unknown, and we only heard of it when our sick 
men had recovered, our vessels had been repaired, our 
provisions shipped, and when our departure was near at 
hand. Whatever the duties of hospitality may be, 
Governor King had given the whole of Europe the 
example of a benevolence which should be known, and 
which I take a great pleasure in publishing. 

"On our arrival at Port Jackson, the stock of wheat 
there was very limited, and that for the future was un- 
certain. The arrival of 170 men was not a happy cir- 
cumstance at the time, yet we were well received; and 
when our present and future wants were known, they 
were supplied by shortening part of the daily ration 
allowed to the inhabitants and the garrison of the 
colony. The Governor first gave the example. 

retained by King amongst his papers, and never used. Had it 
been in the hands of Flinders when forced to touch at the Isle 
of France it might have prevented any question, real or pre- 
tended, as to his bona fides.. Indeed, it is not unlikely that it was 
originally intended for Flinders." But, although the letter was 
not used by Flinders, Baudin gave a copy of it to General 
Decaen, Governor of lle-de-France, when he called there on his 
homeward voyage. The copy is now among Decaen's manu- 
scripts at Caen, Vol. 84. The blanks are in it, as in King's copy. 
Decaen was therefore fully aware of the generous treatment 
accorded to his countrymen at Port Jackson. 


Through those means, which do so great honour to the 
humane feelings of him who put them into motion, we 
have enjoyed a favour which we would perhaps have 
experienced much difficulty in finding anywhere else. 

"After such treatment, which ought in future to 
serve as an example for all the nations, I consider it my 
duty, as much out of gratitude as by inclination, to re- 
commend particulary to you Mr. commander of 

H.M.S. . Although he does not propose to call 

at the Isle of France, it may be possible some unfore- 
seen circumstance might compel him to put into port in 
the colony, the government of which is entrusted to you. 
Having been a witness of the kind manner with which 
his countrymen have treated us on every occasion, I 
hope he will be convinced by his own experience that 
Frenchmen are not less hospitable and benevolent; and 
then his mother-country will have over us the advantage 
only of having done in times of war what happier times 
enabled us to return to her in time of peace." 

That letter has been quoted, and the circumstances 
attending Baudin's arrival and stay at Sydney have been 
narrated with some fulness, in order to give particular 
point to the conduct of two members of his expedition, 
Frangois Peron and Lieutenant Louis de Freycinet. As 
will be seen from what follows, both of them used the 
latitude allowed to them while receiving King's 
generous hospitality, to spy, to collect information for 
the purpose of enabling an attack to be made upon Port 
Jackson, and to supply it with mischievous intent to the 
military authorities of their nation. 

he Naturaliste returned to Europe from King 
Island on December 8th. She took with her all the 
natural history specimens collected up to that time, and 
reports of the work done. Baudin, with Le Geographe 
and the Casuarina, spent six months longer in Aus- 
tralian waters, exploring Spencer's and St. Vincent's 


Gulfs, completing the chart of Kangaroo Island, and 
making a second voyage along the coast. On July 7th, 
1803, he determined to return to France. He reached 
Ile-de-France on August 7th, became seriously ill there, 
and died on September 16th. The Casuarina was dis- 
mantled, and Le Geographe, which stayed there for 
three months after her commander's death, arrived in 
France on March 24th, 1804. 

The military Governor of Ile-de-France at this time 
was General Charles Decaen. As a later chapter will 
be devoted to his career and character, it is only- 
necessary to say here that he was a dogged, strong- 
willed officer, imbued with a deep-rooted hatred of 
British policy and power, and anxious to avail himself 
of any opportunity that might occur of striking a blow 
at the rival of his own nation. Francois Peron very 
soon found that the Governor was eager to get informa- 
tion that might, should a favourable chance present 
itself, enable him to attack the British colony in Aus- 
tralia, and he lost no time in ministering to the General's 
belligerent animosity. 

On December 11th, 1804, four days before Le 
Geographe sailed for Europe, Peron furnished to 
Decaen a long report on Port Jackson, containing some 
very remarkable statements.* He alleged that the 
First Consul, Bonaparte, in authorising Baudin's ex- 
pedition, had given to it a scientific semblance with the 
object of disguising its real intent from the Govern- 
ments of Europe, and especially from the cabinet of 
Great Britain. "If sufficient time were available to 
me," said Peron, "it would be very easy to demonstrate 
to you that all our natural history researches, extolled 
with so much ostentation by the Government, were 
merely the pretext of its enterprise." The principal 

* MSS., Decaen Papers, Vol. 92. The complete document is 
translated in appendix B to this volume. 


object was "one of the most brilliant and important con- 
ceptions," which would, if successful, have made the 
Government for ever illustrious. The unfortunate cir- 
cumstance was, however, Peron declared, that after so 
much had been done to conduce to the success of these 
designs, the execution of them had been confided to a 
man utterly unsuited to conduct them to a successful 

That there were such designs as those alleged by 
Peron is disclosed by no word in Napoleon's Correspon- 
dance; there is no suggestion of anything of the kind in 
the papers communicated to Baudin by the Minister of 
Marine, or in Baudin's confidential reports to his Gov- 
ernment. It is in the nature of a spy to flavour with 
his own conjectures the base fruit of his illicit inquisi- 
tions, and Peron knew that he was writing to a man 
greedy to obtain such material as he was ready to supply. 
There is no word from any other member of the ex- 
pedition, except Freycinet, written before or after, to 
support Peron's allegations ; and it is extremely unlikely 
that, if the purpose he indicated had been the real one, 
he would have been the man to know about it. Peron 
had not originally been a member of the staff of 
the expedition. Baudin's ships had been equipped, 
their complement was complete, and they were 
lying at Havre in October, 1800, awaiting sailing 
orders, when Peron sought employment. He had 
been a student under Jussieu at the Museum, 
and to that savant he applied for the use of 
his influence. Jussieu, with the aid of the biologist, 
Lacepede, secured an opportunity for Peron to read a 
paper before the Institute, expounding his views as to 
research work which might be done in Australasia ; the 
result was that at almost the last moment he obtained 
appointment.* He was not in the confidence of Baudin, 

, * See the biographies of Pe"ron by Deleuze (1811) and Girard 
I (1857). 


with whom he was on bad terms throughout the voyage, 
and his hatred for whom continued relentlessly after 
the unfortunate captain's death. On the point in ques- 
tion, therefore, Peron is by no means a trustworthy 
witness. The very terms in which Baudin wrote of 
Sydney, in his confidential letter to the Minister of 
Marine, indicate that he was innocent of any knowledge 
of a secret purpose. If he had known he would have 
referred to it here; and if he did not know of one, 
Peron certainly did not. "I believe it to be my duty," 
wrote Baudin, "to warn you that the colony of Port 
Jackson ought to engage the attention of the Govern- 
ment and indeed of other European power also. People 
in France or elsewhere are very far from imagining 
that the English, in the space of fourteen years, have 
been able to build up their colony to such a degree of 
prosperity, which will be augmented every year by the 
dispositions of their Government. It seems to me that 
policy demands (il me semble que la politique exige) 
that by some means the preparations they are making 
for the future, which foreshadow great projects, 
ought to be balanced." That was simply Baudin's 
personal opinion: "it seemed to him." But the state- 
ment Peron made to Decaen, as to what he could 
demonstrate "if he had time," together with his other 
assertions, may have had an influence on the general's 
mind, and may have affected the later treatment of 
Flinders; and that constitutes its importance for our 

Peron went on to allege that while he was at Port 
Jackson, "I neglected no opportunity of procuring all 
the information that I foresaw would be of interest. I 
was received in the house of the Governor with much 
consideration; he himself and his secretary spoke our 
language well. Mr. Paterson, the commandant of the 
New South Wales troops, always treated me with par- 


ticular regard. I was received in his house, as one may 
say, like a son. Through him I knew all the officials of 
the colony. The surgeon, Mr. Thomson, honoured me 
with his friendship. Mr. Grimes, the surveyor-general, 
Mr. Palmer the commissary-general, Mr. Marsden a 
clergyman at Parramatta, and a cultivator as wealthy 
as he was discerning, were all capable of furnishing me 
with valuable information. My functions permitted 
me to hazard the asking of a number of questions which 
would have been indiscreet on the part of another, 
especially on military matters. I have, in a word, 
known all the principal people of the colony, in all walks 
of life, and all of them have furnished me with infor- 
mation as valuable as it is new. Finally, I made in Mr. 
Paterson's company long journeys into the interior of 
the country; I have seen the best farms, and I assure 
you that I have collected everywhere interesting ideas, 
and have stated them in as exact a form as possible." 

After this illuminating dissertation as to his own 
value as a spy, and the clever use he had made of his 
functions as a naturalist to exploit unsuspecting people, 
Peron proceeded to describe the British establishment 
in detail. But he omitted to tell Decaen how kindly he 
and his countrymen had been treated there; not a word 
had he to say on that subject; no circumstance was 
mentioned that might tend to withhold an attack if a 
favourable chance for one should occur. He gave an **y 
interesting description of Sydney and its environs, spoke 
of the growth of its trade, the spread of cultivation, the 
increase of wealth. Then he gave his views on the 
designs of the British to extend their power in the 
Pacific. Their ambitions were not confined to New 
Holland itself, vast as it was. Their cupidity had been 
excited by Van Diemen's Land. They did not intend, 
if they could avoid it, to permit any other nation to 
occupy that country. They would soon extend their 


dominion to New Zealand. They were even casting 
avaricious glances across the Pacific. They had occu- 
pied Norfolk Island, and he did not hesitate to say that 
they were looking for a place further east, whence they 
might assail Chili and Peru. The British were quite 
aware of the feebleness of the Spaniards in those 
regions, and meant to appropriate their possessions in 

Next Peron gave an account of the transportation 
system, of which he approved, as making for rapid 
colonization, and as having valuable reformatory effects. 
The climate and productiveness of New South Wales 
were enthusiastically praised by him, and its eminent 
suitability for European occupation was extolled. In 
all that the British had done in Australia were to be 
recognised great designs for the future. Steps had been 
taken to convert felons into good colonists, to educate 
their children, and to train them for useful avocations. 

He drew attention to the number of Irish prisoners 
who had been transported for participation in rebellious 
movements at home, and to their implacable hatred of 
Great Britain. "The Irish, kept under by an iron 
sceptre, are quiet to-day; but if ever the Government of 
our country, alarmed by the rapidly increasing power 
of that colony, formed the project of taking or destroy- 
ing it, at the very name of the French the Irish would 
rise. We had a striking example of what might be 
expected on our first arrival in the colony. Upon the 
appearance of the French flag, the alarm became 
general in the country. The Irish began to flock 
together from all parts, and if their error had not been 
speedily dissipated, there would have been a general 
rising among them. One or two were put to death on 
that occasion, and several were deported to Norfolk 


The troops at Port Jackson, said Peron, did not 
number more than 700 or 800 men while the French 
ships were there, but he believed that as many as 8,000 
were expected. He doubted, however, whether Great 
Britain could maintain a very large force there, in view 
of the demands upon her resources elsewhere owing to 
the war; but was of opinion that she would use Port 
Jackson as a depot for India, on account of the healthi- 
ness of the climate. He summed up in eighteen para- 
graphs the advantage which Great Britain drew, and 
was likely to draw, from her possession of Port Jack- 
son; and he terminated these by telling Decaen that 
"my opinion, and that of all those among us who have 
been particularly occupied with the organization of that 
colony, would be that we should destroy it as soon as 
possible. To-day we can do that easily; we shall not 
be able to do it in a few years to come." There 
followed a postscript in which Peron informed the 
General that Lieutenant de Freycinet "has particularly 
occupied himself with examining all the points on the 
coast in the neighbourhood of Port Jackson that are 
favourable for the debarkation of troops. He has 
made especial enquiries concerning the entry to the port, 
and if ever the Government thought of putting into 
execution the project of destroying this freshly set trap 
of a great Power, that distinguished officer's services 
would be of precious value in such an operation." The 
recommendation of Peron's fellow-spy at the end of 
the report is interesting, as indicating how the pair 
worked together. Peron, under the guise of a man of 
science collecting facts about butterflies and grass- 
hoppers, exploited his hosts for information of a 
political and military nature; whilst Freycinet, ostensibly 
examining the harbour in the interest of navigation, 
made plans of places suitable for landing troops. Both 
together, having been nourished and nursed in their day 


of dire calamity by the abundant kindness of the people 
of Sydney, concocted plans for bringing destruction 
upon their benefactors, and proffered their services to 
show the way. One thinks perforce of a rough speech 
of Dol Common in Ben Jonson's Alchemist: 
" S'death, you perpetual curs, 
Fall to your couples again, and cozen kindly." 

Five days after the arrival of he Geographe \\ 
France, on March 29th, 1804, Peron wrote to the 
Minister of Marine* in similar terms, relating th( 
valuable opportunities he had had of making himseli 
acquainted with the situation of Port Jackson, and 
mentioning the names of leading citizens with whom 
he had associated, and from whom he had collected in- 

A second report upon Port Jackson was furnished 
to General Decaen, giving precise information as to 
where troops could be landed if an invasion were under- 
taken. The document is unsigned,! but, having regard 
to Peron's statement concerning Freycinet's investiga- 
tions, there can be no doubt that the information came 
from him. The writer described Sydney as "perhaps 
the most beautiful port in the world," and observed 
that, though its natural defences were strong, the Eng- 
lish had employed no means to fortify the approaches. 
Many of the convicts were Irish, and were capable of 
everything except good. J Persons who had played a 
part in connection with the recent rebellion in Ireland 
were subject to transportation, and were naturally a dis- 
affected class. England had only 600 troops to main- 
tain order in that "society of brigands," and discipline 
was not very well observed amongst them. Particulars 
were given as to how an invasion could be effected : 

* Arch. Nat., BB4, 996. 

t "Coup d'oeil rapide sur l'establissement des Anglais de la 
Nouvelle Hollande," mss., Decaen Papers, Vol. 92, p. 74. 
t lis sont capable de tout, except^ le bien." 


"The conquest of Port Jackson would be very easy 
to accomplish, since the English have neglected every 
|| species of means of defence. It would be possible to 
make a descent through Broken Bay, or even through 
the port of Sydney itself; but in the latter case it would 
be necessary to avoid disembarking troops on the right 
side of the entrance, on account of the arm of the sea 
of which I have already spoken.* That indentation 
presents as an obstacle a great fosse, defended by a 
battery of ten or twelve guns, firing from eighteen to 
twenty-four-pound balls. The left shore of the har- 
bour is undefended, and is at the same time more 
accessible. The town is dominated by its outlying 
portions to such an extent, that it might be hoped to 
reduce the barracks in a little time. There is no 
battery, and a main road leads to the port of Sydney. 
Care ought to be taken to organize the invaders in 
attacking parties. The aboriginals of the country need 
not be reckoned with. They make no distinctions 
between white men. Morever, they are few in numbers. 
The residence of the Governor, that of the colonel of 
the New South Wales Regiment, the barracks, and one 
public building, are the principal edifices. The other 
houses, to the number of three or four hundred, are 
small. The chief buildings of the establishment 
captured, the others would fall naturally into the hands 
of the conqueror. If the troops had to retreat, they 
would best do so by the River Oxburyf and thence to 
Broken Bay. I regret very much that I have not more 
time to give J to this slight review of the resources, 
means of defence of and methods of attack on that 

* Middle Harbour. 

t i.e., the Hawkesbury ; the Frenchman guessed at the spelling 
from the pronunciation. 

± Compare P^ron's remark concerning the little time at his 
disposal. Both reports were written only a few days before 
Le Geographe left Ile-de-France for Europe. 


colony. I conclude by observing that scarcely any 
coinage is to be found in circulation there. They use 
a currency of copper with which they pay the troops, 
and some paper money." 

There is no need to emphasise the circumstances in 
which this piece of duplicity was perpetrated. They 
are made sufficiently clear from the plain story related 
in the preceding pages. But it should be said in justice to 
Baudin that there is no reason to associate him with the 
espionage of Peron. Nor is it the case that the ex- 
pedition originally had any intention of visiting Port 
Jackson, for this or any other purpose. As explained 
in the chapter relating to the Encounter Bay incident, 
it was Flinders who suggested to Baudin that he should 
seek the souccour he so sorely needed at Sydney; and 
Le Naturaliste, which preceded him thither, was driven 
by a like severity of need to his own. "It does not 
appear by his orders," wrote King to Banks "that he 
was at all instructed to touch here, which I do not think 
he intended if not obliged by distress." Such was the 
case; and it was this very distress, and the generous 
alleviation of it by the British colonists, that make the 
singular turpitude of Peron and Freycinet in pursuing 
nefarious designs of their own and plotting to rend the 
breast that fed them. The great war gave rise to many 
noble acts of chivalry on both sides, deeds which are 
luminous with a spirit transcending the hatreds of the 
time, and glorify human nature; but it is happily 
questionable whether it produced an example to equal 
that expounded in these pages, of ignoble treachery and 
ungrateful baseness. 

Flinders, when reviewing the unjust account of his 
own discoveries given by Peron in his Voyage de 
Decouvertes, adopted the view that what he wrote was 
under compulsion from authority. "How came M. 
Peron to advance what was so contrary to truth?" he 


asked. " Was he a man destitute of all principle? My 
answer is that I believe his candour to have been equal 
to his acknowledged abilities; and that what he wrote 
was from over-ruling authority, and smote him to the 
heart." Could Flinders have known what Peron was 
capable of doing, in the endeavour to advance himself 
in favour with the rulers of his country, he would 
certainly not have believed him so blameless. 

That Port Jackson was never attacked during these 
years of war was not due to its own capabilities of de- 
fence, which were pitifully weak; nor to reluctance on 
the part of Napoleon and Decaen; but simply to the 
fact that the British Navy secured and kept the com- 
mand of the sea. In 1810 Napoleon directed the 
equipment of a squadron to "take the English colony 
of Port Jackson, where considerable resources will be 
found."* But it was a futile order to give at that date. 
Trafalgar had been fought, and the defence of the 
colony in Australia was maintained effectively wherever 
British frigates sailed. 

Peron's report, then, did no mischief where he 
intended that it should. But by inflaming Decaen's 
mind with suspicions it may not have been ineffectual 
in another unfortunate direction, as we shall presently 

The action of Peron in trying to persuade Decaen 
that the object of Baudin's expedition was not truly 
scientific was all the more remarkable because he him- 
self, as one of its expert staff, did work which earned 
him merited repute. His papers on marine life, on 
phosphorescence in the sea, on the zoology of the South 
Seas, on the temperature of the sea at measured depths, 
and on other subjects pertaining to his scientific funct- 
ions, were marked by conspicuous originality and 
acumen. But he was not content to allow the value of 

* Napoleon's Correspondence, Vol. XX., document 16, 544. 


his services to be estimated by researches within his 
own sphere. He knew the sort of information that 
would please General Decaen, and evidently considered 
that espionage would bring him greater favour from 
his Government, at that time, than science. 

Nevertheless, it is right to bring out the fact, in 
justice to the diligent savants who worked under Baudin, 
that their researches generally were of real importance. 
Professor Jussieu, one of the foremost men of science 
in Europe, was deputed to report upon them, and did 
so in a comprehensive document* "Of all the collec- 
tions which have come to us from distant countries at 
different times," wrote Jussieu, "those which Le 
Geographe and Le Natiiraliste have brought home are 
certainly the most considerable." The botanist Les- 
chenalt had found over 600 species of plants which 
were believed to be new to science; and he eulogised 
the zoological work of Peron, who had succeeded in 
bringing to France alive seven kinds of kangaroo, an 
emu, a lyre-bird and several black swan. Altogether, 
18,414 specimens of Australian fauna had been 
collected, comprised in 3,872 species, of which 2,592 
species were new to the museum. The men of science 
had "succeeded beyond all our hopes." Their task 
had been perfectly fulfilled, and their services to science 
deserved to be liberally rewarded by a just and generous 

It would have been a source of satisfaction if it 
could be recorded that work so laborious and so well 
performed had earned for Peron a reputation unstained 
by such conduct as has been exhibited in the preceding 

MSS., Archives of the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris. 

Chapter XVIII. 


Preparations for the continuance of researches in the 
Investigator proceeded speedily during June and July, 
1802. Friendly relations were maintained with the 
staff of the French ships, who on one occasion dined on 
board with Flinders, and were received with a salute of 
eleven guns. A new chart of the south coast was then 
shown to Baudin, with the part which he had discovered 
marked with his name. He made no objection to the 
justice of the limits indicated, though he expressed him- 
self surprised that they were so small; for up to this 
time he was not aware of the discovery by Grant of the 
coast eastward from Cape Banks. "Ah, Captain," said 
Freycinet, when he recognised the missed opportunities, 
"if we had not been kept so long picking up shells and 
catching butterflies at Van Diemen's Land, you would 
not have discovered the south coast before us." 

A glimpse of the social life of the settlement is 
afforded in a letter to Mrs. Flinders, concerning the 
King's birthday celebrations.* Very little is known 
about the amusements and festivities of Sydney in those 
early days, but that gaiety and ceremony were not 
absent from the convict colony is apparent from this 
epistle, which was dated June 4th, 1802: — "This is a 
great day in all distant British settlements, and we are 
preparing to celebrate it with due magnificence. The 
ship is covered with colours, and every man is about to 
put on his best apparel and to make himself merry. We 
go through the form of waiting on His Excellency the 

* Flinders' Papers. 



Governor at his levee, to pay our compliments to him 
as the representative of majesty; after which, a dinner 
and ball are given to the colony, at which not less than 
52 gentlemen and ladies will be present. Amidst all 
this, how much preferable is such a 'right hand and 
left' as that we have had at Spilsby with those we love, 
to that which we shall go through this evening." 

A few alterations were made in the ship, which was 
re-rigged and overhauled ; and a new eight-oar boat was 
built to replace the one lost in Spencer's Gulf. She cost 
£30, and was constructed after the model of the boat 
in which Bass had made his famous expedition to 
Westernport. She proved, "like her prototype, to be 
excellent in a sea, as well as for rowing and sailing in 
smooth water." 

Fourteen men were required to make up the ship's 
complement. A new master was found in John Aken 
of the Hercules, a convict transport, and five seamen 
were engaged; but it was impossible to secure the 
services of nine others from amongst the free people. 
Flinders thereupon proposed to the Governor that he 
should ship nine convicts who could bring "respectable 
recommendations." King concurred, and the number 
required were permitted to join the Investigator, with 
the promise that they should receive conditional or 
absolute pardons on their return, "according to Captain 
Flinders' recommendation of them." Several of them 
were experienced seamen, and proved a great acquisition 
to the strength of the ship. Flinders also took with 
him his old friend Bongaree, "the worthy and brave 
fellow" who had accompanied him on the Norfolk 
voyage in 1799, and a native lad named Nambaree. 

It was determined, after consultation with King, to 
sail to the north of Australia and explore Torres Strait 
and the east side of the Gulf of Carpentaria, as well 
as to examine the north-east coast with more care than 


Cook had been able to give to it. The Lady Nelson, 
under Murray's direction, was to accompany the Investi- 
gator; if rivers were found, it was hoped that she would 
be able to penetrate the country by means of them. 

On the 21st July the provisioning of the ship was 
completed, the new boat was hoisted into her place, and 
the Investigator dropped down the harbour to make her 
course northward. 

The Lady Nelson proved more of a hindrance than 
a help to the work of exploration. She was painfully 
slow, and, to make matters worse, Murray, "not being 
much accustomed to make free with the land," hugged 
the coast, and kept the Investigator waiting for him at 
every appointed rendezvous. In August she bumped 
on a reef in Port Curtis and lost her sliding keel; in 
September she ran aground in Broad Sound and injured 
her main keel. Her capacity for beating to windward 
was never great, and after she had been repaired her 
tardiness became irritating. Murray had also lost one 
anchor and broken another. His ship sailed so ill, in 
fact, and required so much attention, that she dragged 
on Flinders' vessel; and Murray had given many 
proofs that he "was not much acquainted with the kind 
of service" in which they were engaged. On October 
18th, therefore, Flinders sent her back to Sydney, with 
an expression of regret at depriving Murray, who had 
shown zeal to make himself useful, of the advantage of 
continuing the voyage. 

On August 7th Port Curtis was discovered, and 
was named after Sir Roger Curtis, the admiral at the 
Cape who had been so attentive to the requirements of 
the Investigator on her voyage out from England. In 
Keppel Bay (discovered by Cook in 1770) the master's 
mate and a seaman became bogged in a mangrove 
swamp, and had to pass the night persecuted by clouds 
of mosquitoes. In the morning their plight was 


relieved by a party of aboriginals, who took them to a 
fire whereat they dried themselves, and fed them on 
broiled wild duck. Natives were encountered at every 
landing-place, and were invariably friendly. 

Another important discovery was made on August 
21st, when Port Bowen was entered. It had not only 
escaped Cook's notice, but, owing to a change of wind, 
was nearly missed by Flinders also. He named it after 
Captain James Bowen of the Royal Navy. 

In every bay he entered Flinders examined the 
refuse thrown up by the sea, with the object of finding 
any particle of wreckage that might have been carried 
in. If, as was commonly believed (and was, in fact, 
the case), Laperouse had been wrecked somewhere in 
the neighbourhood of New Caledonia, it was possible 
that remnants of his vessels might be borne to the 
Queensland coast by the trade winds. "Though the 
hope of restoring Laperouse or any of his companions 
to their country and friends could not, after so many 
years, be rationally entertained, yet to gain some certain 
knowledge of their fate would do away the pain of sus- 
pense. * 

The Percy Islands (September 28th) were a third 
discovery of importance on this northern voyage. 
Flinders now desired to find a passage through the 
Barrier Reef to the open Pacific, in order that he might 
make the utmost speed for Torres Strait and the Gulf 
of Carpentaria. Several openings were tried. At 
length an opening was found. It is known as Flinders' 

* In 1861, remains of a small vessel were found at the back of 
Temple Island, not far from Mackay, 150 miles or more north of 
Flinders' situation when he wrote this passage. The wreckage is 
believed by some to be part of the craft built by Laperouse's people 
at Vanikoro, after the disaster which overtook them there. The 
sternpost recovered from the wreckage is, I am informed, included 
among the Laperouse relics preserved at Paris. See A. C. Mac- 
donald, on "The Fate of Lape" rouse," Victorian Geographical 
Journal, xxvi., 14. 


Passage, in lat. 18° 45' S., long. 148° 10' E., and is 
frequently used nowadays. It is about 45 miles N.E. 
from Cape Bowling Green, and is the southernmost 
of the passages used by shipping through the Barrier. 
Three anxious days were spent in tacking through 
the intricacies of the untried passage. The per- 
plexity and danger of the navigation must have re- 
called to the commander's mind his experiences as a 
midshipman under Bligh ten years before. It was nor 
until the afternoon of October 20th that a heavy swell 
from the eastward was felt under the ship, and Flinders 
knew by that sign that the open sea had been gained. 
He finished his description of this treacherous piece of 
reef-ribbed sea by a bit of seaman's advice to brother 
sailors. A captain who wished to make the experiment 
of getting through the Barrier Reef "must not be one 
who throws his ship's head round in a hurry so soon as 
breakers are announced from aloft. If he do not feel 
his nerves strong enough to thread the needle, as it is 
called, amongst the reefs, while he directs the steerage 
from the masthead, I would strongly recommend him 
not to approach this part of the coast." Strong nerves 
and seamanship had pulled through in this case, with a 
few exciting phases; and the Investigator, in the open 
ocean, was headed for Torres Strait. 

The strait was entered eight days later, by a passage 
through the reef which had been found by Captain 
Edwards of the Pandora in 1791, and which Flinders 
marked on his chart as Pandora's Entrance.* He pre- 
ferred this opening to the one further north, found by 
Bligh in 1792. The ship was brought to anchor on 
October 29th under the lee of the largest of Murray's 

* It is generally marked Flinders' Entrance on modern maps ; 
but Flinders himself held to his principle of never calling a place 
after himself, and of invariably ascribing full credit to his pre- 


Immediately afterwards three long Papuan canoes, 
carrying about fifty natives, came in sight. Remember- 
ing the attacks he had witnessed in the Providence, 
Flinders kept his marines under arms and his guns 
ready, and warned his officers to watch every movement 
of the visitors. But the Papuans were merely bent on 
barter on this occasion, hatchets especially being in 
demand. Seven canoes appeared on the following 
morning. "Wishing to secure the friendship and confi- 
dence of these islanders to such vessels as might here- 
after pass through Torres Strait, and not being able to 
distinguish any chief amongst them, I selected the oldest 
man, and presented him with a handsaw, a hammer and 
nails, and some other trifles; of all which we attempted 
to show him the use, but I believe without success; for 
the poor old man became frightened on finding himself 
to be so particularly noticed." 

Darwin, in writing his treatise on the Structure and 
Distribution of Coral Reefs, in 1842, made use of 
Flinders' chart and description of the Great Barrier 
Reef, which extends for more than a thousand miles 
along the east side of the continent, and into the throat 
of Torres Strait. The hypothesis that as the bed of the 
ocean subsides the coral polyps go on building steadily 
upwards, occurred to Darwin more than thirty years 
after Flinders sailed along the Reef; and what the 
navigator wrote was the result of his own observation 
and thought. Many absurd and fanciful speculations 
about coralline formation were current in his day, and 
have often been repeated since. But the reader who 
has given any study to Darwin's array of facts and 
powerful reasoning will be interested in the ideas of the 
earlier observer: 

"It seems to me, that, when the animalcules which 
form the corals at the bottom of the ocean cease to live, 
their structures adhere to each other, by virtue either of 






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the glutinous remains within, or of some property 
in salt water; and the interstices being gradually 
filled up with sand and broken pieces of coral 
washed by the sea, which also adhere, a mass of 
rock is at length formed. Future races of these 
animalcules erect their habitations upon the rising 
bank, and die in their turn, to increase, but 
principally to elevate, this monument of their wonder- 
ful labours. The care taken to work perpendicularly 
in the early stages would mark a surprising instinct in 
these diminutive creatures. Their wall of coral, for 
the most part in situations where the winds are constant, 
being arrived at the surface, affords a shelter to lee- 
ward of which their infant colonies may be safely sent 
forth; and to their instructive foresight it seems to be 
owing that the windward side of a reef exposed to the 
open sea is generally, if not always, the highest part, 
and rises almost perpendicular, sometimes from the 
depth of 200, and perhaps many more fathoms. To be 
constantly covered with water seems necessary to the 
existence of the animalcules, for they do not work, 
except in holes upon the reef, beyond low-water mark; 
but the coral, sand, and other broken remnants thrown 
up by the sea adhere to the rock, and form a solid mass 
with it, as high as the common tides reach. That ele- 
vation surpassed, the future remnants, being rarely 
covered, lose their adhesive property, and, remaining in 
a loose state, form what is usually called a key upon the 
top of the reef. The new bank is not long in being 
visited by sea-birds; plants take root upon it; a cocoa- 
nut, or the drupe of a pandanus is thrown on shore; 
land-birds visit it and deposit the seeds of shrubs and 
trees; every high tide, and still more every gale, adds 
something to the bank; the form of an island is gradu- 
ally assumed; and last of all comes man to take 


The Gulf of Carpentaria was entered on November 
3rd, and a suitable place was found for careening the 
ship. As the carpenters proceeded with their work, 
their reports became alarming. Many of her timbers 
were found to be rotten, and the opinion was confidently 
expressed that in a strong gale with much sea running 
she could hardly escape foundering. She was totally 
unfit to encounter much bad weather. The formal 
report to the commander concluded with the depressing 
warning, "from the state to which the ship seems now 
to be advanced, it is our joint opinion that in twelve 
months there will scarcely be a sound timber in her, but 
that, if she remain in fine weather and no accident 
happen, she may run six months longer without much 

Upon receipt of this report Flinders, with much sur- 
prise and sorrow, saw that a return to Port Jackson was 
almost immediately necessary. "My leading object 
had hitherto been to make so accurate an investigation 
of the shores of Terra Australis that no future voyage 
to this country should be necessary; and with this always 
in view, I had ever endeavoured to follow the land so 
closely that the washing of the surf upon it should be 
visible, and no opening, nor anything of interest, escape 
notice. Such a degree of proximity is what navigators 
have usually thought neither necessary nor safe to pur- 
sue, nor was it always persevered in by us; sometimes 
because the direction of the wind or shallowness of the 
water made it impracticable, and at other times be- 
cause the loss of the ship would have been the probable 
consequence of approaching so near to a lee shore. But 
when circumstances were favourable, such was the plan 
I pursued, and, with the blessing of God, nothing of 
importance should have been left for future discoverers 
upon any part of these extensive coasts ; but with a ship 
incapable of encountering bad weather, which could not 

oM3yZ^ d l803 





be repaired if sustaining injury from any of the 
numerous shoals or rocks upon the coast — which, if con- 
stant fine weather could be ensured and all accidents 
avoided, could not run more than six months — with such 
a ship I knew not how to accomplish the task." 

Very serious consideration had to be given to the 
route by which the return voyage should be made. If 
Flinders returned as he had come, the monsoon season 
made it certain that storms would be encountered in 
Torres Strait, and to thread the Barrier Reef in a 
rotten ship in tempestuous weather was to court des- 
truction. Weighing the probabilities carefully Flinders, 
with a steady nerve and cool judgment, resolved to con- 
tinue his exploration of the gulf until the monsoon 
abated, and then to make for Port Jackson round the 
north-west and west of Australia — or, if it should 
appear that the Investigator could not last out a winter's 
passage by this route, to run for safety to the nearest 
port in the East Indies. In the meantime all that the 
carpenters could do was to replace some of the rottenest 
parts of the planking and caulk the bends. 

Flinders remained on these coasts, in pursuit of his 
plan, till the beginning of March, doing excellent work. 
The Cape Van Diemen of Dutch charts, at the head of 
the gulf, was found to be not a projection from the 
mainland but an island, which was named Mornington 
Island, after the Governor-General of India; and the 
group of which it is the largest received the designation 
of Wellesley Islands* after the same nobleman. The 
Sir Edward Pellew group, discovered on the south-west 
of the gulf, was named after a British admiral who will 
figure in a later part of this biography. 

Traces of the visits of Malays to this part of Aus- 
tralia were found in the form of fragments of pottery, 

* Richard, Earl of Mornington, afterwards the Marquess Welles- 
ley, was Governor-General of India from 1798-1805. 


bamboo basket-work, and blue cotton rags, as well as 
a wooden anchor and three boat rudders. The Cape 
Maria of Dutch charts was found to be an island, which 
received the name of Maria Island. In Blue Mud Bay\ 
Morgan, the master's mate, was speared by a native, 
and died. A seaman shot another native in revenge, 
and Flinders was "much concerned" and "greatly dis- 
pleased" about the occurrence. His policy throughout 
was to keep on pleasant terms with all natives, and to 
encourage them to look upon white men as friendly. 
Nothing that could annoy them was countenanced by 
him at any time. The incident was so unusual a de- 
parture from his experience on this voyage as to set him 
conjecturing that the natives might have had differences 
with Asiatic visitors, which led them to entertain a 
common enmity towards foreigners. 

Melville Bay, the best harbour near the gulf, was dis- 
covered on February 12th, and on the 17th the Investi- 
gator moved out of the gulf and steered along the north- 
coast of Australia. Six Malay vessels were sighted on 
the same day. They hung out white flags as the Eng- 
lish ship approached and displayed her colours; and the 
chief of one of them came on board. It was found that 
sixty prows from Macassar were at this time on the 
north coast, in several divisions; they were vessels of 
about twenty-five tons, each carrying about twenty men ; 
their principal business was searching for beche-de-mer, 
which was sold to the Chinese at Timor. 

Arnhem Bay was found marked, but not named, 
upon an old Dutch chart, and Flinders gave it the name 
it bears from the conviction that Tasman or some other 
navigator had previously explored it. In the early 
part of March he came to the conclusion that it would 
be imprudent to delay the return to Sydney any longer. 
Not only did the condition of the ship cause anxiety, 
but the health of the crew pointed to the urgency of 


quitting these tropical coasts. Mosquitoes, swarms of 
black flies, the debility induced by the moist heat of the 
climate, and the scarcity of . nourishing food, made 
everybody on board anxious to return. Scorbutic ulcers 
broke out on Flinders' feet, so that he was no longer 
able to station himself at his customary observation- 
point, the mast-head. Nevertheless, though driven by 
sheer necessity, it was not without keen regret that he 
determined to sail away. "The accomplishment of the 
survey was, in fact," he said, "an object so near to my 
heart, that could I have foreseen the train of ills that 
were to follow the decay of the Investigator and prevent 
the survey being resumed, and had my existence 
depended upon the expression of a wish, I do not know 
that it would have received utterance; but Infinite 

b Wisdom has, in infinite mercy, reserved the knowledge 

Vof futurity to itself." - -^ 

Even in face of the troubles facing him, Flinders 
fought hard to continue his work to a finish. He 
planned to make for the Dutch port of Kupang, in 
Timor, and thence send Lieutenant Fowler home in any 
ship bound for Europe to take to the Admiralty his 
reports and charts, and a scheme for completing the 
survey. He hoped then to spend six months upon the 
north and north-west coasts of Australia, and on the 
run to Port Jackson, and there to await Fowler's return 
with a ship fit for the service. But this plan was frus- 
trated. He reached Timor at the end of March, and 
was courteously received by the Dutch Governor, also 
renewing acquaintance with Baudin and his French 
officers, who had put into port to refresh. But no ship 
bound for England was met. A homeward-bound 
vessel from India had touched at Kupang ten days 
before the Investigator arrived, but when another one 
would put in was uncertain. A vessel was due to sail 
for Batavia in May, and the captain consented to take 


charge of a packet of letters for transmission to Eng- 
land; but there was no opportunity of sending Fowler. 
A few days were spent in charting a reef about which 
the Admiralty had given instructions, and by April 16th 
the voyage to Port Jackson was being pursued at best 
speed by way of the west and south coasts. Flinders 
did not even stay to examine the south of Kangaroo 
Island, which had not been charted during the visit in 
1802, for dysentery made its appearance on board — 
owing, it was believed, to a change of diet at Timor — 
and half a dozen men died. Sydney was reached on 
June 9th, after a voyage of ten months and nineteen 

Australia had thus been, for the first time, com- 
pletely circumnavigated by Flinders. 

An examination of the Investigator showed how 
perilously near destruction she had been since she left 
the Gulf of Carpentaria. On the starboard side some 
of the planks were so rotten that a cane could be thrust 
through them. By good fortune, when she was run- 
ning along the south coast the winds were southerly, and 
the starboard bow, where the greatest weakness lay, 
was out of the water. Had the wind been northerly, 
Flinders was of opinion that it would not have been 
possible to keep the pumps going sufficiently to keep 
the ship afloat, whilst a hard gale must inevitably have 
sent her to the bottom. 

As Flinders said in a letter to his wife:* "It was the 
unanimous opinion of the surveying officers that, had 
we met with a severe gale of wind in the passage from 
Timor, she must have crushed like an egg and gone 
down. I was partly aware of her bad state, and 
returned sooner to Port Jackson on that account before 
the worst weather came. For me, whom this obstruc- 

Flinders' Papers. 


tion in the voyage and the melancholy state of my poor 
people have much distressed, I have been lame about 
four months, and much debilitated in health and I fear 
in constitution; but am now recovering, and shall soon 
be altogether well." In another letter he describes the 
ship as "worn out — she is decayed both in skin and 

Of the nine convicts who were permitted to make 
this voyage, one died; the conduct of a second did not 
warrant Flinders in recommending him for a pardon; 
the remaining seven were fully emancipated. Four 
sailed with Flinders on his next voyage; but two of 
them, no longer having to gain their liberty by good 
behaviour, conducted themselves ill, and a third was 
convicted again after he reached England. 

Upon his arrival in port after this voyage Flinders 
learnt of the death of his father. The occasion called 
forth a letter to his step-mother, which is especially 
valuable from the light it throws upon his character.* 
The manly tenderness of his sorrow and sympathy 
throbs through every sentence of it. In danger, in 
adversity, in disappointment, in difficulty, under tests 
of endurance and throughout perilous cruises, we always 
find Flinders solicitous for the good of others and un- 
sparing of himself; and perhaps there is no more 
moving revelation of his quality as a man than that 
made in this letter: 

"Investigator, Port Jackson, 
"My dearest Mother, "June 10th, 1803. 

"We arrived here yesterday from having circum- 
navigated New Holland, and I received numerous and 
valuable marks of the friendship of all those whose 
affection is so dear to me; but the joy which some letters 

* Flinders' Papers. 


occasioned is dreadfully embittered by what you, my 
good and kind mother, had occasion to communicate. 
The death of so kind a father, who was so 
excellent a man, is a heavy blow, and strikes deep into 
my heart. The duty I owed him, and which I had 
now a prospect of paying with the warmest affection 
and gratitude, had made me look forward to the time 
of our return with increased ardour. I had laid such 
a plan of comfort for him as would have tended to 
make his latter days the most delightful of his life; for 
I think an increased income, retirement from business, 
and constant attention from an affectionate son whom 
he loved, would have done this. Indeed, my mother, 
I thought the time fast approaching for me to fulfil 
what I once said in a letter, that my actions should some 
day show how I valued my father. One of my fondest 
hopes is now destroyed. O, my dearest, kindest father, 
how much I loved and reverenced you, you cannot now 

"I beg of you, my dear mother, to look upon me 
with affection, and as one who means to contribute 
everything in his power to your happiness. Indepen- 
dent of my dear father's last wish, I am of myself 
desirous that the best understanding and correspondence 
should exist between us; for I love and reverence you, 
and hope to be considered by you as the most anxious 
and affectionate of your friends, whose heart and purse 
will be ever ready for your services. 

"I know not who at present can receive my dividend 
from his legacy to me; but if you can, or either Mr. 
Franklin or Mr. Hursthouse, I wish the yearly interest 
to be applied to the education of my young sisters,* in 
such manner as you will think best. This, my dear 
Madam, I wish to continue until such time as I can see 

* His step-sisters. 


you and put things upon the footing that they ought to 

"Do not let your economy be carried too far. I 
hope you will continue to visit and see all our good 
friends, and have things comfortable about you. I 
should be sorry that my dear mother should lose any 
of the comforts and conveniences she has been accus- 
tomed to enjoy. 

"I have much satisfaction in hearing both from you 
and Susan that Hannah* makes so good use of the 
opportunities she has for improvement. If she goes on 
cultivating her mind, forming her manners from the 
best examples before her, and behaves respectfully and 
kindly to her mother and elder friends, she shall be my 
sister indeed, and I will love her dearly. 

"With great regard for you and my young sisters, 
I am your anxious and affectionate son, 

"Matthew Flinders." 

In another vein is a playful letter to his wife 
written in the same month, June, 1803.f 

"If I could laugh at the effusion of thy tenderness, 
it would be to see the idolatrous language thou fre- 
quently usest to me. Thou makest an idol and then 
worshippest it, and, like some of the inhabitants of the 
East, thou also bestowest a little castigation occasion- 
ally, just to let the ugly deity know the value of thy 
devotion. Mindest thou not, my dearest love, that I 
shall be spoiled by thy endearing flatteries? I fear it, 
and yet can hardly part with one, so dear to me is thy 
affection in whatever way expressed." 

Some account of his companions on the voyage is 
given in a letter to Mrs. Flinders written at this time 
(June 25th, 1803).f In a letter previously quoted he 

* The elder of his two step-sisters, 
t Flinders' Papers. 


had referred to being debilitated in health, "and I fear 
in constitution"; and in this one he mentions that he. 
like the ship's cat, Trim, was becoming grey. Such 
hard unsparing service as he had given was writing its 
tale on his form and features, and there were worse 
trials to come: "Mr. Fowler is tolerably well and my 
brother is also well ; he is becoming more steady, and is 
more friendly and affectionate with me since his know- 
ledge of our mutual loss. Mr. Brown is recovering 
from ill health and lameness. Mr. Bauer, your 
favourite, is still polite and gentle. Mr. Westall wants 
prudence, or rather experience, but is good-natured. 
The two last are well, and have always remained on 
good terms with me. Mr. Bell* is misanthropic and 
pleases nobody. Elderf continues to be faithful and 
attentive as before; I like him, and he apparently likes 
me. Whitewood I have made a master's mate, and he 
behaves well. Charrington is become boatswain, and 
Jack Wood is now my coxswain. Trim, like his master, 
is becoming grey; he is at present fat and frisky, and 
takes meat from our forks with his former dexterity. 
He is commonly my bedfellow. The master we have 
in poor Thistle's place:); is an easy, good-natured man." 
In another letter to his wife§ he tells her: "Thou 
wouldst have been situated as comfortably here as I 
hoped and told thee. Two better or more agreeable 
women that Mrs. King and Mrs. Paterson are not 
easily found. These would have been thy constant 
friends, and for visiting acquaintances there are five or 
six ladies very agreeable for short periods and perhaps 

In a previous chapter it was remarked that Flinders 
and Bass did not meet again after their separation 
following on the Norfolk voyage. Bass was not in 

* The surgeon. % John Aken. 

t Flinders' servant. § Flinders' Papers. 


Sydney when the Investigator lay there, greatly to 
Flinders' disappointment. "Fortune seems determined 
to give me disappointments," he wrote to Mrs. Kent; 
"when I came into Port Jackson all the most esteemed 
of my friends were absent. In the case of Bass I have 
been twice served this way."* But he left a letter for 
his friend with Governor King.* It was the last word 
which passed between these two men; and, remember- 
ing what they did together, one can hardly read the end 
of the letter without feeling the emotion with which it 
was penned: 

"I shall first thank you, my dear Bass, for the two 
letters left for me with Bishop, and then say how much 
I am disappointed that the speculation is not likely to 
afford you a competency so soon as we had hoped. This 
fishing and pork-carrying may pay your expenses, but 
the only other advantage you get by it is experience for 
a future voyage, and this I take to be the purport of 
your Peruvian expedition. 

"Although I am so much interested in your success, 
yet what I say about it will be like one of Shortland's 
letters, vague conjectures only, mingled with / hope. 
Concerning the Investigator and myself, there will be 
more certainty in what I write. In addition to the 
south coast, we have explored the east coast as far as 
Cape Palmerston, with the islands and extensive reefs 
which lie off. These run from a little to the N.W. of 
Breaksea Spit to those of the Labyrinth. The passage 
through Torres Straits you will learn as much of here 
as I can tell you. The newspaper of June 12 last will 
give you information enough to go through, and it is 
the best I have (the chart excepted) until the strait is 
properly surveyed. Should these three ships go 
through safely, and I do not fear the contrary, the 

* Flinders' Papers. 


utility of the discovery will be well proved, and the 
consequences will probably be as favourable to me as 
the conclusion of the voyage might have been without 
it. I do indeed privately hope that, whether the 
voyage is or is not further prosecuted, I may attain 
another step ; many circumstances are favourable to this, 
but the peace and the non-completion of the voyage are 
against it. To balance these, I must secure the interest 
of the India House, by means of Sir Joseph, Mr. 
Dalrymple, and the owner of the Brldgewater, Princeps, 
with whom I am acquainted. I am fortunate in having 
the attachment of Governor King, who by introductions, 
favourable reports, and I believe every proper means 
in his power, has, and is still, endeavouring to assist me; 
and you are to understand that my going home for 
another ship is in conformity to an opinion first brought 
forward by him. The shores of the Gulf of Carpen- 
taria have undergone a minute examination. 

"It might appear that the presence of the French 
upon these coasts would be much against me; but I con- 
sider that circumstance as favourable, inasmuch as the 
attention of the world will be more strongly attracted 
towards New Holland, and some comparisons will no 
doubt be found between our respective labours. Now, 
in the department of geography, or rather hydrography, 
the only one where the execution rests with me, they 
seem to have been very vague and inconclusive, even by 
their own testimony. By comparison, therefore, my 
charts will rise in value. It is upon these that I wish 
to rest my credit. You must, however, make the 
requisite allowance for the circumstances under which 
each part was examined, and these circumstances I have 
made the charts themselves explain, I hope to your 
satisfaction, as you will see on publication. 

"I shall see your wife, if in London, as well as her 


family. Accounts speak indifferently of her brother* 
and his prospects. His sun seems to have passed the 
meridian, if they speak true. Your good mother I shall 
endeavour to see too, if my business will anyway fit it. 

"God bless you, my dear Bass; remember me, and 
believe me to be, 

"Your very sincere and affectionate friend, 

"Matthew Flinders." 

One other letter of this period may be quoted for 
the insight it gives into the relations between the 
Governor and the principal residents of the colony at 
this time. The urbanity and good sense of Flinders, 
and the fact that his voyages kept him out of the official 
circle for prolonged periods, enabled him to avoid 
offence under such circumstances. The letter was 
written to Captain Kent's wife, a treasured friend: 

"The attention of the Governor to me has been 
indeed very great, as well as that which I have received 
from my kind friend, Mrs. King. It is a cause of 

much uneasiness to me that Colonel and Mrs. P 1 

should be upon terms of disagreement with . 

There is now Mrs. K J, Mrs. P § and Mrs. 

M **, for all of whom I have the greatest regard, 

who scarcely speak to each other. It is really a 
miserable thing to split a small society into such small 
parts. Why do you ladies meddle with politics? But 
I do not mean you." 

What subsequently happened to the Investigator, a 
ship which had played so memorable a part in discovery, 
may be chronicled in a few lines. She was used as a 

* Captain Henry Waterhouse. 

t The quarrel between King and Paterson was bitter, and 
affected the affairs of the colony in many directions. 
% King. 
§ Paterson. 
** Marsden. 


store ship in Sydney harbour till 1805. In that year 
she was patched sufficiently to take her to England. 
Captain William Kent commanded her on the voyage, 
leaving Sydney on May 24th. She arrived in Liverpool 
in a shattered condition on October 24th, having been 
driven past the Channel in a storm. The Admiralty 
ordered Kent to take her round to Plymouth. He 
carried out the order, but not without great difficulty. 
"A more deplorably crazy vessel than the Investigator 
is perhaps not to be seen," Kent informed the Admiralty 
on reaching Falmouth. She was sold and broken up 
in 1810. But those rotten planks had played a part 
in history, and if only a few splinters of them remained 
to-day they would be preserved with the tenderest 

Chapter XIX. 


There was some anxious discussion between King and 
Flinders as to the best course to follow for the 
expeditious completion of the survey of the coasts of 
Australia. The Investigator being no longer fit for the 
service, consideration was given to the qualifications of 
the Lady Nelson, the Porpoise, the Francis, and the 
Buffalo, all of which were under the Governor's direc- 
tion. King was most willing to give his concurrence 
and assistance in any plan that might be considered ex- 
pedient. He confessed himself convinced of Flinders' 
"zealous perseverance in wishing to complete the service 
you have so beneficially commenced," and cheerfully 
placed his resources at the explorer's disposal. 

Flinders went for a few days to the Hawkesbury 
settlement, where fresh air, a vegetable diet and medical 
care promoted his recovery from the ailments 
occasioned by prolonged ship-life in the tropics; and on 
his return, at the beginning of July, determined upon a 
course of action. The Porpoise was the best of the 
four vessels mentioned, but she was by no means a 
sound ship, and it did not seem justifiable to incur the 
expense of fitting her for special service only to find her 
incapable of finishing the task. It was determined, 
therefore, that she should be sent to England under 
Fowler's command, and that Flinders should go in her 
as a passenger, in order that he might lay his charts 
and journals before the Admiralty, and solicit the use 
of another vessel to continue his explorations. Brown, 



the botanist,* and Bauer, the botanical draftsman, 
desired to remain in Port Jackson to pursue their 
scientific work, but Westall accompanied Flinders, who 
with twenty-one of the remainder of the Investigator's 
company, embarked on the Porpoise. She sailed on 
August 10th, in company with the East India Com- 
pany's ship Bridgewater and the Cato, of London, both 
bound for Batavia. It was intended to go north, and 
through Torres Strait, in order that further observa- 
tions might be made there; and Fowler was ordered to 
proceed "by the route Captain Flinders may indicate." 
Had not Flinders been so eager to take advantage of 
this as of every other opportunity to prosecute his re- 
searches — had he sailed by the Bass Strait and Cape of 
Good Hope route — the misfortunes that were soon to 
come upon him would have been averted. But he 
deliberately chose the Torres Strait course, not only 
because he considered that a quick passage could be 
made at that season of the year, but chiefly for the 
reason that "it will furnish me with a second 
opportunity of assuring myself whether that Strait can 
or cannot become a safe general passage for ships from 
the Pacific into the Indian Ocean." 

He was destined to see once again the settlement at 
Sydney, whence had radiated the series of his valuable 
and unsparing researches; but on the next and final 
occasion he was "caught in the clutch of circumstance." 

* Brown, in the preface to his Prodromus (which, being in- 
tended for the elect, was written in Latin), made but one allu- 
sion to the discovery voyage whereby his botanical researches 
became possible. Dealing with the parts of Australia where 
he had collected his specimens, he spoke of the south coast, 
"Oram meridionalem Novae Hollandiae, a promontorio Lewin 
ad promontorium Wilson in Freto Bass, complectentem Lewin's 
Land, Nuyt's Land et littora Orientem versus, a Navarcho 
Flinders in expeditione cui adjunctus fui, primum explorata, et 
paulo post a navigantibus Gallicis visa: insulis adjacentibus 


His leave-taking in August, 1803, was essentially his 
farewell; and his general observations on the country 
he had served, and which does not forget the service, 
are, though brief, full of interest. He had seen the 
little town grow from a condition of dependence to one 
of self-reliance, few as were the years of his knowledge 
of it. Part of his early employment had been to bring 
provisions to Sydney from abroad. In 1803, he saw 
large herds spreading over the country. He saw forests 
giving way before the axe, and spreading fields of 
grain and fruit ripening for the harvest. The popula- 
tion was increasing, the morale was improving, "and that 
energetic spirit of enterprise which characterises 
Britannia's children seemed to be throwing out vigorous 
shoots in this new world." He perceived the obstacles 
to progress. The East India Company's charter, 
which prohibited trade between Sydney and India and 
the western coasts of America, was one of them. Con- 
vict labour was another deterrent. But he had vision, 
and found in the signs of development which he saw 
around him phenomena "highly interesting to the con- 
templator of the rise of nations." 

Seven days out of Sydney, on August 17th, the 
Porpoise struck a reef and was wrecked. 

The three vessels were running under easy sail, the 
Porpoise leading on what was believed to be a clear 
course. At half-past nine o'clock at night the look-out 
man on the forecastle called out "Breakers ahead." 
Aken, the master, who was on watch, immediately 
ordered the helm to be put down, but the ship answered 
slowly. Fowler sprang on deck at once ; but Flinders, 
who was conversing in the gun-room, had no reason to 
think that anything serious had occurred, and remained 
there some minutes longer. When he, went on deck, he 
found the ship beyond control among the breakers, and 
a minute later she struck a coral reef and heeled over 


on her starboard beam ends. "It was," says Seaman 
Smith, "a dreadful shock." The reef — now called 
Wreck Reef — was in latitude 22° 11' south, longitude 
155° 13' east, about 200 miles north-east of Hervey 
Bay, and 739 miles north of Sydney.* The wind was 
blowing fresh, and the night was very dark. The heave 
of the sea lifted the vessel and dashed her on the coral 
a second and third time; the foremast was carried away, 
and the bottom was stove in. It was realised at once 
that so lightly built and unsound a ship as the Porpoise 
was must soon be pounded to pieces under the repeated 

Anxiety for the safety of the Cato and the Bridge- 
water was felt, as they were following the lead of the 
King's vessel. An attempt was made to fire a gun to 
warn them, but the heavy surf and the violent motion 
of the wrecked ship prevented this being done. Before 
any warning could be given the Cato dashed upon the 
coral about two cables' length from the Porpoise, whose 
company saw her reel, fall over, and disappear from 
view. The Bridgewater happily cleared the reef. 

After the first moments of confusion had passed. 
Flinders ordered the cutter and the gig to be launched. 
He informed Fowler that he intended to save his charts 
and journals, and to row to the Bridgewater to make 
arrangements for the rescue of the wrecked people. 
The gig, in which he attempted to carry out this plan, 

•Extract from the Australia Directory, Vol. II. (Published by 
the Admiralty) : — "Wreck Reef, on the central portion of which the 
ships Porpoise and Cato were wrecked in 1803, consists of a chain 
of reefs extending 18* miles and includes 5 sand cays; Bird Islet, 
the easternmost, is the only one known to produce any vegetation. 
Of the other four bare cays none are more than 130 yards in extent, 
or exceed six feet above high water ; they are at equal distances 
apart of about four miles, and each is surrounded by a reef one to 
one and a half miles in diameter. The passages between these reefs 
are about two miles wide . . . On the northern side of most of 
them there is anchorage." 


was compelled to lie at a little distance from the ship, 
to prevent being stove in; so he jumped overboard and 
swam to her. She leaked badly, and there was nothing 
with which to bale her out but the hats and shoes of the 
ship's cook and two other men who had taken refuge 
under the thwarts. Flinders steered towards the 
Bridgewater's lights, but she was standing off, and it was 
soon seen to be impossible to reach her. It was also 
unsafe to return to the Porpoise through the breakers 
in the darkness ; so that the boat was kept on the water 
outside the reef till morning, the small party on board 
being drenched, cold under a sharp south-easter, and 
wretchedly miserable. Flinders did his best to keep 
up their spirits, telling them that they would un- 
doubtedly be rescued by the Bridgewater at daylight; 
but he occupied his own mind in devising plans for 
saving the wrecked company in case help from that 
ship was not forthcoming. 

Meanwhile blue lights had been burnt on the ship 
every half-hour, as a guide to the Bridgewater, whose 
lights were visible till about two o'clock in the morning. 
Fowler also occupied time in constructing a raft from 
the timbers, masts and yards of the Porpoise. "Every 
breast," says Smith's narrative, "was filled with horror, 
continual seas dashing over us with great violence." 
Of the Cato nothing could be seen. She had struck,' not 
as the Porpoise had done, with her decks towards the 
reef, but opposed to the full force of the lashing sea. 
Very soon the planks were torn up and washed away, 
and the unfortunate passengers and crew were huddled 
together in the forecastle, some lashed to timber heads, 
others clinging to any available means of support, and 
to each other, expecting every moment that the 
stranded vessel would be broken asunder. In Smith's 
expressive words, the people were "hanging in a cluster 
by each other on board the wreck, having nothing to 


take to but the unmerciful waves, which at this time bore 
a dreadful aspect." 

At dawn, Flinders climbed on to the Porpoise by the 
help of the fallen masts. As the light grew, it was 
seen that about half a mile distant lay a dry sandbank 
above high-water mark, sufficiently large to receive the 
whole company, with such provisions as could be saved 
from the ship. Orders were at once given to remove 
to this patch, that gave promise of temporary safety, 
everything that could be of any service; and the Cato's 
company, jumping overboard and swimming througn 
the breakers with the aid of planks and spars, made for 
the same spot. All were saved except three lads, one 
of whom had been to sea on three or four voyages and 
was wrecked on every occasion. "He had bewailed 
himself through the night as the persecuted Jonah who 
carried misfortune wherever he went. He launched 
himself upon a broken spar with his captain; but, having 
lost his hold in the breakers, was not seen afterwards." 

The behaviour of the Bridgewater in these distress- 
ing circumstances was inhuman and discreditable lu such 
a degree as is happily rare in the history of seamanship. 
On the day following the wreck (August 18th) it would 
have been easy and safe for her captain, Palmer, to 
bring her to anchor in one of the several wide and 
sufficiently deep openings in the reef, and to take the 
wrecked people and their stores on board. Flinders 
had the gig put in readiness to go off in her, to point 
out the means of rescue. A topsail was set up on the 
highest part of the reef, and a large blue ensign, with 
the union downwards, was hoisted to it as a signal of 
distress. But Palmer, who saw the signal, paid no heed 
to it. Having sailed round the reef, deluding the un- 
fortunates for awhile with the false hope of relief, he 
stood off and made for Batavia, leaving them to their 
fate. Worse still, he acted mendaciously as well as 


with a heartless disregard of their plight; for on his 
arrival at Tellicherry he sent his third mate, Williams, 
ashore with an untrue account of the occurrence, report- 
ing the loss of the Porpoise and Cato, and saying that 
he had not only found it impossible to weather the reef, 
but even had he done so it would have been too late to 
render assistance. Williams, convinced that the crews 
were still on the reef, and that Palmer's false account 
had been sent ashore to excuse his own shameful con- 
duct, and "blind the people," left his captain's narra- 
tive as instructed, but only "after relating the story as 
contrary as possible" on his own account. He told 
Palmer what he had done, and his action "was the cause 
of many words." What kind of words they were can 
be easily imagined. The result of Williams' honest 
independence was in the end fortunate for himself. 
Though he left the ship, and forfeited his wages and 
part of his clothes by so doing, he saved his own life 
from drowning. The Bridgewater left Bombay for 
London, and was never heard of again. "How dread- 
ful," Flinders commented, "must have been his reflec- 
tions at the time his ship was going down." 

On the reef rapid preparations were made for 
establishing the company in as much comfort as means 
would allow, and for provisioning them until assistance 
could be procured. They were 94 men "upon a small 
uncertainty" — the phrase is Smith's — nearly eight 
hundred miles from the nearest inhabited port. But they 
had sufficient food for three months, and Flinders assured 
them that within that time help could be procured. 
Stores were landed, tents were made from the sails and 
put up, and a proper spirit of discipline was installed; 
after a convict-sailor had been promptly punished for 
disorderly conduct. Spare clothing was served out to 
some of the Cato's company who needed it badly, and 
there was some fun at the expense of a few of them 



who appeared in the uniforms of the King's navy. With 
good humour came a feeling of hope. u On the fourth 
day," wrote Flinders in a letter,* "each division of 
officers and men had its private tent, and the public 
magazine contained sufficient provisions and water to 
subsist us three months. We had besides a quantity of 
other things upon the bank, and our manner of living 
and working had assumed the same regularfty as on 
board His Majesty's ships. I had to punish only one 
man, formerly a convict at Port Jackson; and on that 
occasion I caused the articles of war to be read, and 
represented the fatal consequences that might ensue to 
our whole community from any breach of discipline and 
good order, and the certainty of its encountering 
immediate punishment." 

The stores available,! with the periods for which 
they would suffice on full allowance, consisted of: 

Biscuit . . . . 940 lbs. j 

Flour . . . . 9644 „ 

Beef in four pounds 1776 pieces 

592 „ 
45 bushels 
50 „ 
1225 lbs. 
320 „ ' 
125 „ # 
225 gallons ") 
113 „ C 49 days 

60 „ ) 

Pork in two pounds 









83 days 

94 days 

107 days 

48 days 

114 days 

84 days 

Water, 5650 gallons at half a gallon per day 

In addition there were some sauer kraut, essence of 
malt, vinegar, salt, a new suit of sails, some spars, a 
kedge anchor, iron-work and an armourer's forge, can- 

* Flinders' Papers. 

^Sydney Gazette, September 18th, 1803. 


vas, twine, various small stores, four-and-a-half barrels 
of gunpowder, two swivels, and several muskets and 
pistols, with ball and flints. A few sheep were also 
rescued. When they were being driven on to the reef 
under the supervision of young John Franklin, they 
trampled over some of Westall's drawings. Their 
hoof-marks are visible on one of the originals, preserved 
in the Royal Colonial Institute Library, to this day. 

As soon as the colony on the reef had been regularly 
established, a council of officers considered the steps 
most desirable to be taken to secure relief. It was 
resolved that Flinders should take the largest of the 
Porpoise's two six-oar cutters, with an officer and crew, 
and make his way to Port Jackson, where the aid of a 
ship might be obtained. The enterprise was hazardous 
at that season of the year. The voyage would in all 
probability have to be undertaken in the teeth of strong 
southerly winds, and the safe arrival of the cutter, even 
under the direction of so skilful a seaman as Flinders, 
was the subject of dubious speculation. But something 
had to be done, and that promptly; and Flinders un- 
hesitatingly undertook the attempt. He gave direc- 
tions for the government of the reef during his absence, 
and ordered that two decked boats should be built by 
the carpenters from wreckage, so that in the event of his 
failure the whole company might be conveyed to Sydney. 

By the 25th August the cutter had been prepared 
for her long voyage, and on the following day she was 
launched and appropriately named the Hope. It was a 
Friday morning, and some of the sailors had a 
superstitious dread of sailing on a day supposed to be 
unlucky. But the weather was fine and the wind light. 
Flinders laughed at those who talked of luck. With 
Captain Park of the Cato as his assistant officer, and a 
double set of rowers, fourteen persons in all, he set out 
at once. He carried three weeks' provisions. "All 


hands gave them 3 chears, which was returned by the 
boat's crew," says Seaman Smith. At the moment 
when the Hope rowed away a sailor sprang to the flag- 
staff whence the signal of distress had been flying since 
the morning when help from the Bridgewater had been 
hoped for, and hauled down the blue ensign, which was 
at once rehoisted with the union in the upper canton. 
"This symbolic expression of contempt for the Bridge- 
water and of confidence in the success of our voyage, I 
did not see without lively emotion," flinders relates. 

Leaving the Hope to continue her brave course, we 
may learn from Smith how the 80 men remaining on the 
reef occupied themselves : 

"From this time our hands are imployd, some about 
our new boat, whose keel is laid down 32 feet; others 
imployd in getting anything servisible from the wreck. 
Our gunns and carriadges we got from the wreck and 
placed them in a half moon form, close to our flag staf, 
our ensign being dayly hoisted union downward. Our 
boats sometimes is imployd in going to an island about 
ten miles distant; and sometimes caught turtle and fish. 
This island was in general sand. Except on the highest 
parts, it produced sea spinage; very plentifully stockd 
with birds and egs. In this manner the hands are 
imployd and the month of October is set in. Still no 
acct. of our Captn's success. Our boat likewise ready 
for launching, the rigging also fitted over her masthead, 
and had the appearance of a rakish schooner. On the 
4th of Octr. we launchd her and gave her name of the 
Hope.* On the 7th we loaded her with wood in order 
to take it over to the island before mentiond to make 
charcoal for our smith to make the ironwork for the 

* Smith was in error. The boat built at the reef was named the 
Resource. The Hope, as stated above, was the cutter in which 
Flinders sailed from the reef to Sydney. See A Voyage to Terra 
Australis, II., 315 and 329. 


next boat, which we intend to build directly. She 
accordingly saild." 

A letter by John Franklin to his father* gives an 
entertaining account of the wreck and of some other 
points pertaining to our subject : 

"Providential Bank, 

"August 26th, 1803, 

"Lat. 22° 12', long. 155° 13' (nearly) E. 
"Dear Father, 

"Great will be your surprise and sorrow to find by 
this that the late investigators are cast away in a sandy 
patch of about 300 yards long and 200 broad, by the 
wreck of H.M.S. Porpoise on our homeward bound 
passage on the reefs of New South Wales. You will 
then wonder how we came into her. I will explain: 
The Investigator on her late voyage, was found when 
surveying the Gulf of Carpentaria to be rotten, which 
obliged us to make our best way to Port Jackson; but 
the bad state of health of our crew induced Captain 
Flinders to touch at Timor for refreshment; which 
being done he sailed, having several men died on the 
passage of dysentery. On our arrival she was sur- 
veyed and condemned as being unfit for service. There 
being no other ship in Sydney fit to complete her in- 
tended voyage, Governor King determined to send us 
home in the Porpoise. She sailed August 10th, 1803, 
in company with the Bridgewater, extra Indiaman, and 
Cato, steering to the N.W. intending to try how short a 
passage might be made through Torres Straits to Eng- 
land. On Wednesday, 17th, we fell in with reefs, t sur- 
veyed them, and kept our course, until half-past nine, 
when I was aroused by the cry of breakers, and before 

* MS., Mitchell Library. 
tCato Islet and reefs. 


I got on deck the ship struck on the rocks.* Such boats 
as could be were got out, the masts cut away, and then 
followed the horrors of ship-wreck, seas breaking over, 
men downcast, expecting the ship every moment to part. 
A raft of spars was made, and laid clear, sufficiently 
large to take the ship's company in case the ship should 
part; but as Providence ordained she lasted until morn- 
ing, when happy were we to see this sandbank bearing 
N.W. quarter of a mile. But how horrible on the 
other hand to see the Cato in a worse condition than 
ourselves, the men standing forward shouting for assist- 
ance, but could get none, when their ship was parting. 
All except three of them committed themselves to the 
waves, and swam to us, and are now living on this bank. 
The Bridgewater appeared in sight, and then in a most 
shameful and inhuman manner left us, supposing 
probably every soul had perished. Should she 
make that report on her arrival consider it as false. 
We live, we have hopes of reaching Sydney. 
The Porpoise being a tough little ship hath, and 
still does in some measure, resist the power of 
the waves, and we have been able to get most 
of her provisions, water, spars, carpenter's tools, and 
every other necessary on the bank, fortunate spot that 
it is, on which 94 souls live. Captain Flinders and his 
officers have determined that he and fourteen men 
should go to Port Jackson in a cutter and fetch a vessel 
for the remainder; and in the meantime to build two 
boats sufficiently large to contain us if the vessels should 
not come. Therefore we shall be from this bank in 
six or eight weeks, and most probably in England by 
eight or nine. Our loss was more felt as we 
anticipated the pleasure of seeing our friends 
and relations after an absence of two years and 
a half. Let me recommend you to give your- 

* Wreck Reef. 


selves no anxiety, for there is every hope of 
reaching England ere long. I received the letters by 
the Glatton and was sorry to find that Captain F. had 
lost his father. He was a worthy man. You would 
not dislike to have some account of our last voyage, I 
suppose. We were 11 months from Sydney, and all 
that time without fresh meat or vegetables, excepting 
when we were at Timor, and now and then some fish, 
and mostly in the torrid zone, the sun continually over 
our head, and the thermometer at 85, 86, and 89. The 
ship's company was so weakened by the immense heat 
that when we were to the southward they were continu- 
ally ill of the dysentery; nay, nine of them died, besides 
eight we lost on our last cruise. Thus you see the 
Investigator's company has been somewhat shattered 
since leaving England. Our discoveries have been 
great, but the risks and misfortunes many. 

"Have you got the prize money? I see it is due, 
and may be had by applying at No. 21 Milbank St., 
Westminster; due July 22, 1802. If you do not, it 
will go to Greenwich Hospital. I had occasion to draw 
for necessaries at Sydney this last time £24 from 
Capt'n. F. 

"John Franklin/' 

Chapter XX. 

Governor King received the news of the wreck of the 
Porpoise immediately after the arrival of the Hope in 
Port Jackson, on the evening of September 8th. King 
and his family were at dinner when to his great amaze- 
ment Flinders was announced. "A razor had not 
passed over our faces from the time of the shipwreck," 
he records, "and the surprise of the Governor was not 
little at seeing two persons thus appear whom he 
supposed to be many hundred leagues on their way to 
England; but so soon as he was convinced of the truth 
of the vision before him, and learned the melancholy 
cause, an involuntary tear started from the eye of 
friendship and compassion, and we were received in the 
most affectionate manner." 

King in an official letter confessed that he could not 
"sufficiently commend your voluntary services, and 
those who came with you, in undertaking a voyage of 
700 miles in an open boat to procure relief for our 
friends now on the reef." It was, indeed, an achieve- 
ment of no small quality in itself. 

Plans for the relief of the wrecked people were 
immediately formed. Captain Cumming of the Rolla, 
a 438-ton merchant ship, China-bound, agreed to call 
at the reef, take some of them on board, and carry them 
to Canton, whilst the Francis, which was to sail in com- 
pany, was to bring the remainder back to Sydney. 
Flinders himself was to take command of the Cumber- 
land, a 29-ton schooner, and was to sail in her to Eng- 
land with his charts and papers as rapidly as possible. 

The Cumberland was a wretchedly small vessel in 



which to traverse fifteen thousand miles of ocean. She 
was "something less than a Gravesend passage boat" 
and hardly better suited for the effort than a canal 
barge. But, given anything made of wood that would 
float and steer, inconvenience and difficulty never 
baffled Matthew Flinders when there was service to per- 
form. She was the first vessel that had been built in 
Australia. Moore, the Government boat-builder, had 
put her together for colonial service, and she was re- 
puted to be strong, tight, and well behaved in a sea ; but 
of course she was never designed for long ocean 
voyages. However, she was the only boat available; 
and though Flinders regretted that the meagre accom- 
modation she afforded would prevent him from working 
at his charts while making the passage, he was too eager 
to accomplish his purpose to hesitate about _accepting 
the means. M "Fortuna audaces juvat" might at 
any time have been his motto; fortune helpeth them 
vjthat dare. x An unavoidable delay of thirteen days 
caused some anxiety. "Every day seemed a week," 
until he could get on his way towards the reef. But, 
at length, on September 21st, the Cumberland in com- 
pany with the Rolla and Francis sailed out of Port Jack- 
son. The crew consisted of a boatswain and ten men. 

On Friday, October 7th, exactly six weeks after the 
Hope had left Wreck Reef, the ensign on the flagstaff 
was sighted from the mast-head of the Rolla. At 
about the same time a seaman who was out with 
Lieutenant Fowler, in a new boat that had been con- 
structed from the wreckage, saw a white object in the 
distance against the blue of the sky. At first he took it 
for a sea-bird; but, looking at it more steadfastly, he 
suddenly jumped up, exclaiming, "damn my blood, 
what's that?" It was, in truth, the top-gallant sail of 
the Rolla. Everybody looked at it; a sail indeed it was; 
Flinders had not failed them, and rescue was imminent. 


A shout of delight went up, and the boat scurried back 
to the reef to announce the news. 

At about two o'clock in the afternoon, Flinders 
anchored under the lee of the bank. The shell of the 
Porpoise still lay on her beam side high up on the reef, 
but, her carronades having been landed, the happy 
people welcomed their deliverers with a salute of eleven 
guns. "Every heart was overjoyed at this unexpected 
delivery," as seaman Smith's narrative records; and 
when Flinders stepped ashore, he was long and loudly 
cheered. Men pressed around him to shake his hands 
and thank him, and tears of joy rolled down the hard, 
weather-worn faces of men not over-given to a display 
of feeling. For his own part "the pleasure of rejoining 
my companions so amply provided with the means of 
relieving their distress made this one of the happiest 
moments of my life." 

In singular contrast with the pleasure of everyone 
else was the cool demeanour of Samuel Flinders. A 
letter previously cited contains a reference to him, which 
suggests that he was not always quite brotherly or 
generally satisfactory. On this occasion he was oddly 
stiff and uncordial. Flinders relates the incident: 
"Lieutenant Flinders, then commanding officer on the 
bank, was in his tent calculating some lunar distances, 
when one of the young gentlemen ran to him calling, 
'Sir, sir, a ship and two schooners in sight.' After a 
little consideration, Mr. Flinders said he supposed it 
was his brother come back, and asked if the vessels were 
near. He was answered, not yet; upon which he 
desired to be informed when they should reach the 
anchorage, and very calmly resumed his calculations 
Such are the varied effects produced by the same circum- 
stances upon different minds. When the desired report 
was made, he ordered the salute to be fired, and took 
part in the general satisfaction." 

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After the welcoming was over, Flinders assembled 
all the people and informed them what his plans were. 
Those who chose might go to Sydney in the Francis; the 
others, with the exception of ten, would sail in the 
Rolla to Canton and others take ship for England. To 
accompany him in the Cumberland he chose John Aken, 
who had been master of the Investigator, Edward 
Charrington, the boatswain, his own servant, John 
Elder, and seven seamen. Their names are contained 
in the logbook which General Decaen detained at Ile- 
de-France. They were George Elder, who had been 
carpenter on the Porpoise, John Woods, Henry Lewis, 
Francis Smith, N. Smith, James Carter, and Jacob 
Tibbet, all picked men. 

Young Franklin went in the Rolla. As he explained 
in a letter to his mother* : "The reason I did not accom- 
pany Captain Flinders was the smallness of the vessel 
and badness of accommodation, he having only taken 
the master with him." The young sailor's application 
had won the commendation of the commander, who was 
a hero to him throughout his adventurous life. We 
find Flinders writing to his wifef "John Franklin 
approves himself worthy of notice. He is capable of 
learning everything that we can show him, and but for 
a little carelessness I would not wish to have a son other- 
wise than he is." 

At noon on October 11th, four days after the 
arrival of the relieving ships at the reef, they parted 
company, with cheers and expressions of good will. The 
Rolla accomplished her voyage to China safely, and in 
the following year Lieutenant Fowler, Samuel Flinders, 
John Franklin, and the remainder of the old Investi- 
gator's company who sailed in her returned to England 
On their return voyage they participated in as remark- 

* MSS., Mitchell Library. 
t Flinders' Papers. 


able a comedy as the history of naval warfare contains. 
Their ship was one of a company of thirty-one sail, all 
richly laden merchantmen, under the general command 
of the audacious Commodore Nathaniel Dance; and 
he, encountering a French squadron under Rear-Admiral 
Linois, succeeded by sheer, impudent "bluff" in making 
him believe that they were convoyed by British frigates, 
and deterred him from capturing or even seriously 
attacking them.* 

From the very commencement of the voyage the 
little Cumberland caused trouble and anxiety. She 
leaked to a greater extent than had been reported, and 
the pumps were so defective that a fourth part of every 
day had to be spent at them to keep the water down. 
They became worse with constant use, and by the time 
Timor was reached, on November 10th, one of them 
was nearly useless. At Kupang no means of refitting 
the worn-out pump or of pitching the leaky seams in 
the upper works of the boat were obtainable; and 
Flinders had to face a run across the Indian Ocean with 
the prospect of having to keep down the water with 
an impaired equipment. 

When discussing the route with Governor King 
before leaving Sydney, Flinders had pointed out that 
the size of the Cumberland, and the small quantity of 
stores and water she could carry, would oblige him to 
call at every convenient port; and he mentioned that the 
places which he contemplated visiting were Kupang in 
Timor, Ile-de-France (Mauritius), the Cape of Good 
Hope, St. Helena, and one of the Canaries. But King 
took exception to a call being made at Ile-de-France. 
partly because he did not wish to encourage communica- 
tion between Port Jackson and the French colony, and 

* Lieutenant Fowler was presented with a sword valued at 50 
guineas for his part in this action, which took place on 14th 
February, 1804, off Polo Aor, Malacca Strait. See the author's 
Terre Napoleon, p. 16. 


partly because he understood that hurricane weather pre- 
vailed in the neighbourhood at about the time of the 
year when the Cumberland would be in the Indian 
Ocean. To respect King's wishes, Flinders on leaving 
Kupang set a course direct for the Cape of Good Hope. 
But when twenty-three days out from Timor, on the 
4th of December, a heavy south-west ground swell com- 
bined with a strong eastern following sea caused the 
vessel to labour exceedingly, and to ship such quantities 
of water that the one effective pump had to be kept 
working day and night continually. If anything went 
wrong with this pump, a contingency to be feared from 
its incessant employment, there was a serious risk of 

After enduring two days of severe shaking, Flinders 
came to the determination that considerations of safety 
compelled him to make for Ile-de-France. On Decem- 
ber 6th, therefore, he altered the Cumberland's course 
for that island. 

When he wrote his Voyage to Terra Australis, he 
had not his journal in his possession, and worked from 
notes of his recollections. In telling the story now, the 
author has before him not only what Flinders wrote in 
this way, but also a copy of the French translation of 
the journal which Decaen had prepared for his own 
use, and several letters written by Flinders, wherein he 
related what passed in his mind when he resolved to 
alter his course. 

The first and most imperative reason was the 
necessity for repairing the ship and refitting the pumps. 
Secondly, rations had had to be shortened, and victuals 
and water were required. Thirdly, Flinders had come 
to the conclusion that the Cumberland was unfit to com- 
plete the voyage to England, and he hoped to be able to 
sell her, and procure a passage home in another ship. 
"I cannot write up my journal unless the weather is ex- 


tremely fine," he wrote. Fourthly, he desired "to 
acquire a knowledge of the winds and weather at the 
island of the actual state of the French colony, of what 
utility it and its dependencies in Madagascar, might be 
to Port Jackson, and whether the colony could afford 
me resources in my future voyages."* 

When he sailed from Port Jackson there was, as 
far as he knew, peace between England and France. 
But there was a possibility that war had broken out 
again. In that event, the thought occurred to him 
that it would be safer to call at the French colony than 
at the Cape, since he had a passport from the French 
Government, but not from the Dutch, who would 
probably be involved in hostilities against England. 
He did not forget that the passport was made out for 
the Investigator, not for the Cumberland. "But I 
checked my suspicions by considering that the passport 
was certainly intended to protect the voyage and not 
the Investigator only. A description of the Investi- 
gator was indeed given in it, but the intention of it 
could be only to prevent imposition. The Cumberland 
was now prosecuting the voyage, and I had come in her 
for a lawful purpose, and upon such an occasion as the 
passport allowed me to put into a French port. The 
great desire also that the French nation has long shown 
to promote geographical researches, and the friendly 
treatment that the Geographe and the Naturaliste had 
received at Port Jackson, rose up before me as guaran- 
tees that I should not be impeded, but should receive 
the kindest welcome and every assistance."t 

He had no chart of Ile-de-France, but a description 

* Journal. 

t Flinders to Fleurieu ; copy in Record Office, London. An 
entry in his Journal shows that only when he was informed that the 
war had been renewed did it occur to Flinders that the French 
authorities would interpret literally the fact that the passport was 
granted to the Investigator. 


in the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica 
informed him that the principal harbour, Port Louis, 
was on the north-west side, and thither he intended to 

On December 15th the peaks of the island showed 
up against the morning sky. At noon the Cumberland 
was running along the shore, close enough to be ob- 
served, and made a signal for a pilot from the fore-top- 
mast head. A small French schooner came out of a 
cove, and Flinders, wishing to speak with her to make 
enquiries, followed her. She ran on, and entered a 
port, which proved to be Baye du Cap (now Cape Bay) 
on the south-west coast. Flinders steered in her wake, 
thinking that she was piloting him to safety. The 
truth was that the French on board thought they were 
being pursued by an English fighting ship, which meant 
to attack them; and immediately they came to anchor, 
without even waiting to furl sails, they hurried ashore 
in a canoe and reported accordingly. Thus from the 
very beginning of his appearance at Ile-de-France, was 
suspicion cast on Flinders. So began his years of sore 

It was evident from the commotion on shore that 
the arrival of the Cumberland had aroused excitement. 
Flinders saw the people from the schooner speaking to 
a soldier, who, from the plumes in his hat, appeared to 
be an officer. Presently some troops with muskets 
appeared in sight. Apparently orders had been given 
to call out the guard. Flinders concluded that a state 
of war existed, and hastened to inform the authorities 
by sending Aken ashore in a boat, that he had a pass- 
port, and was free from belligerent intentions. 

Aken returned with an officer, Major Dunienville, 
to whom the passport was shown, and the necessities of 
the Cumberland explained. He politely invited 
Flinders to go on shore and dine with him. It was 


pointed out that the immediate requirements were fresh 
water and a pilot who would take the ship round to 
Port Louis, as repairs could not be effected at Baye 
du Cap. The pilot was promised for the next day, and 
Major Dunienville at once sent a boat for the Cumber- 
land's empty casks. 

As soon as he got ashore again, Dunienville wrote a 
report of what had occurred to the Captain-General, or 
Military Governor of the island, General Decaen, and 
sent it off by a special messenger. In this document* 
he related that a schooner flying the English flag had 
chased a coastal schooner into the bay; that the alarm 
had been given that she was a British privateer; that he 
had at once called out the troops; and that, expecting 
an attack, he had ordered the women and children to 
retire to the interior, and had given orders for cattle 
and sheep to be driven into the woods ! "Happily," he 
proceeded, "all these precautions, dictated by circum- 
stances, proved to be unnecessary." The English 
captain had explained to him that he had merely 
followed the coastal boat because he had no pilot, and 
wished to enter the bay to solicit succour; "adding that 
he did not know of the war, and consequently had no 
idea that he would spread alarm by following it. 

Later in the afternoon Dunienville returned to the 
Cumberland with the district commandant, Etienne 
Bolger, and an interpreter. The passport was again ex- 
amined, when Bolger pointed out that it was not granted 
to the Cumberland but to the Investigator, and that the 
matter must be dealt with by the Governor personally. 
At first he desired to send the passport to him, but 
Flinders objected to allowing it to leave his possession, 
as it constituted his only guarantee of protection from 
the French authorities. Then it was arranged that he 

Decaen Papers, Vol. 84. 


should travel overland to Port Louis, while Aken took 
round the ship. But finally Bolger allowed Flinders 
to sail round in the Cumberland, under the guidance of 
a pilot. He was hospitably entertained at dinner by 
Major Dunienville, who invited a number of ladies and 
gentlemen to meet him; and on the morning of 
December 16th he sailed, with the major on board, 
for Port Louis, where he was to confront General 

The character and position of the Captain-General 
of Ile-de-France are so important in regard to the 
remainder of Flinders' life, that it will be desirable to 
devote a chapter to some account of him. 

Chapter XXI. 


Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen was born at 
Caen, the ancient and picturesque capital of Normandy, 
on April 13th, 1769. Left an orphan at the age of 
twelve, his education was superintended by a friend of 
his father, who had been a public official. At the end 
of his schooldays he studied law under an advocate of 
local celebrity, M. Lasseret. Though his juristic train- 
ing was not prolonged, the discipline of the office gave 
a certain bent to his mind, a certain lawyer-like strict- 
ness and method to his mode of handling aftairs, that 
remained characteristic during his military career, and 
was exceedingly useful to him while he governed Ile-de- 
France. Very often in perusing his Memoires* the 
reader perceives traces of the lawyer in the language of 
the soldier. Thus, when during the campaign. of the 
Rhine he found that his superior officer, General 
Jourdan, was taking about with him as his aide-de-camp 
a lady in military attire, Decaen, with a solemnity that 
seems a little un-French under the circumstances, con- 
demned the breach of the regulations as conduct "which 
was not that of a father of a family, a legislator and a 
general-in-chief." As for the lady, "les charmes de 

* The Memoires et Journaux du General Decaen were prepared 
for publication by himself, and the portion up to the commencement 
of his governorship has been printed, with notes and maps, by 
Colonel Ernest Picard, Chief of the Historical Section of the Staff 
of the French Army (2 vols., Paris, 1910). Colonel Picard in- 
formed me that he did not intend to print the remainder, thinking 
that the ground was sufficiently covered by Professor Henri Pren- 
tout's admirable book L'lle de France sous Decaen. I have, there- 
fore, had the section relating to Flinders transcribed from the manu- 
script, and used it freely for this book. 




cette maussade creature" merely evoked his scorn. It 
does not appear that Jourdan's escapade produced any 
ill effects in a military sense, but it was against the regu- 
lations, and Decaen was as yet as much lawyer as 

When the revolutionary wars broke out, and 
France was ringed round by a coalition of enemies, 
the voice of "la patrie en danger" rang in the ears of 
the young student like a call from the skies. He was 
twenty-two years of age when two deputies of the 
Legislative Assembly came down to Caen and made an 
appeal to the manhood of the country to fly to arms. 
Decaen, fuming with patriotic indignation, threw down 
his quill, pitched his calf-bound tomes on to their shelf, 
and was the first to inscribe his name upon the register 
of the fourth battalion of the regiment of Calvados, an 
artillery corps. He was almost immediately des- 
patched to Mayence on the Rhine, where Kleber (who 
was afterwards to serve with distinction under Bona- 
parte in Egypt) hard pressed by the Prussians, with- 
drew the French troops into the city (March, 1793) 
and prepared to sustain a siege. 

Decaen rose rapidly, by reason not merely of his 
bull-dog courage and stubborn tenacity, but also of his 
intelligence and integrity. He received his "baptism 
of fire" in an engagement in April, when Kleber sent a 
detachment to chase a Prussian outpost from a neigh- 
bouring village and to collect whatever forage and pro- 
visions might be obtained. He was honest enough 
to confess — and his own oft-proved bravery enabled 
him to do so unashamed — that, when he first found the 
bullets falling about him, he was for a moment afraid. 
"I believe," he wrote, "that there are few men, how- 
ever courageous they may be, who do not experience a 
chill, and even a feeling of fear, when for the first 
time they hear around them the whistling of shot, 



and above all when they first see the field strewn 
with killed and wounded comrades."*. But he was a 
sergeant-major by this time, and remembered that it 
was his duty to set an example; so, screwing up his 
courage to the sticking-place by an effort of will, and 
saying to himself that it was not for a soldier of France 
to quail before a ball, he deliberately wheeled his horse 
to the front of a position where a regiment was being 
shaken by the enemy's artillery fire, and by his very 
audacity stiffened the wavering troops and saved the 

After the capitulation of Mayence in July, 1793, 
Decaen fought with distinction in the war in La Vendee. 
In this cruel campaign he displayed unusual qualities 
as a soldier, and attained the rank of adjutant- 
general. Kleber gave him a command calling for ex- 
ceptional nerve, with the comment, "It is the most 
dangerous position, and I thought it worthy of your 
courage." It was Decaen, according to his own 
account, who devised the plan of sending out a 
number of mobile columns to strike at the rebels 
swiftly and unexpectedly. But though he was succeed- 
ing in a military sense, these operations against 
Frenchmen, while there were foreign foes to fight 
beyond the frontiers, were thoroughly distasteful to 
him. The more he saw of the war in La Vendee, and 
the more terribly the thumb of the national power 
pressed upon the throat of the rebellion, the more he 
hated the service. It was at his own solicitation, there- 
fore, that he was transferred to the army of the Rhine 
in January, 1795. 

Here he served under the ablest general, saving only 
Bonaparte himself, whom the wars of the Revolution 
produced to win glory for French arms, Jean Victor 

* Memoir es, I., 13. 


Moreau. His bravery and capacity continued to win him 
advancement. Moreau promoted him to the command 
of a brigade, and presented him with a sword of honour 
for his masterly conduct of a retreat through the Black 
Forest, when, in command of the rear-guard, he fought 
the Austrians every mile of the road to the Rhine. 

He became a general of division in 1800. At the 
battle of Hohenlinden, where Moreau concentrated his 
troops to give battle to the Austrians under the Arch- 
duke John, Decaen performed splendid service; indeed 
it was he who chose the position, and recommended it 
as a favourable place for taking a stand.* Moreau 
knew him well by now, and on the eve of the fight 
(December 2nd) when he brought up his division to 
the plateau in the forest of Ebersberg, where the village 
of Hohenlinden stands, and presented himself at head- 
quarters to ask for orders, the commander-in-chief rose 
to greet him with the welcome, "Ah, there is Decaen, the 
battle will be ours to-morrow." It was intended for a 
personal compliment, we cannot doubt, though Decaen 
in his Memoires (II., 136) interpreted it to mean that 
the general was thinking of the 10,000 troops whose 
arrival he had come to announce. 

Moreau's plan was this. He had posted his main 
force strongly fronting the Austrian line of advance, on 
the open Hohenlinden plateau. The enemy had to 
march through thickly timbered country to the attack. 
The French general instructed Decaen and Richepance 
to manoeuvre their two divisions, each consisting of 
10,000 men, through the forest, round the Austrian 
rear, and to attack them there, as soon as they delivered 
their attack upon the French front. The Archduke 
John believed Moreau to be in full retreat, and hurried 

* Memoires, II., 89. 


his army forward from Haag, east of Hohenlinden, 
amid falling snow. 

" By torch and trumpet fast array'd 
Each horseman drew his battle-blade, 
And furious every charger neigh'd 

To join the dreadful revelry. 
Then shook the hills with thunder riven ; 
Then rush'd the steed, to battle driven, 
And louder than the bolts of Heaven 
Far flashed the red artillery." 

Decaen's division marched at five o'clock on the 
morning of December 3rd, and shortly before eight the 
boom of the Austrian cannon was heard. His troops 
pressed forward in a blinding snowstorm. An officer 
said that the guns seemed to show that the Austrians 
were turning the French position. "Ah, well," said 
Decaen, "if they turn ours, we will turn theirs in our 
turn." It was one of the few jokes he made in his 
whole life, and it exactly expressed the situation. The 
Austrian army was caught like a nut in a nut-cracker. 
Battered from front and rear, their ranks broke, and 
fugitives streamed away east and west, like the 
crumbled kernel of a filbert. Decaen threw his battalions 
upon their rear with a furious vigour, and crumpled it 
up; and almost at the very moment of victory the snow 
ceased to fall, the leaden clouds broke, and a brilliant 
sun shone down upon the scene of carnage and triumph. 
Ten thousand Austrians were killed, wounded, or taken 
prisoners, whilst 80 guns and about two hundred bag- 
gage waggons fell as spoils to the French. In this 
brilliant victory Decaen's skill and valour, rapidity and 
verve, had been of inestimable value, as Moreau was 
prompt to acknowledge. 

The quick soldier's eye of Bonaparte recognised 
him at once as a man of outstanding worth. The Con- 


sulate had been established in December, 1799, and the 
First Consul was anxious to attach to him strong, able 
men. In 1802 Decaen ventured to use his influence 
with the Government regarding an appointment to the 
court of appeal at Caen, for which Lasseret, his old 
master in law, was a candidate ; and we find Bonaparte 
writing to Cambaceres, who had charge of the law 
department, that "if the citizen possesses the requisite 
qualifications I should like to defer to the wishes of 
General Decaen, who is an officer of great merit."* He 
saw much of Bonaparte in Paris during 1801 and 1 802 > 
when the part he had to play was an extremely difficult 
one, demanding the exercise of tact and moral courage 
in an unusual measure. The Memoir es throw a vivid 
light on the famous quarrel between Moreau and 
Napoleon, which in the end led to the exile of the victor 
of Hohenlinden. 

Moreau was Decaen's particular friend, the com- 
mander who had given him opportunities for distinction, 
one whom he loved and honoured as a man and a 
patriot. But he was jealous of Napoleon's success, was 
disaffected towards the consular government, and was 
believed to be concerned in plots for its overthrow. On 
the other hand, Napoleon was not only the head of the 
State, but was the greatest soldier of his age. Decaen's 
admiration of him was unbounded, and Napoleon's atti- 
tude towards Decaen was cordial. He tried to recon- 
cile these two men whom he regarded with such warm 
affection, but failed. One day, when business was being 
discussed, Napoleon said abruptly, "Decaen, General 
Moreau is conducting himself badly; I shall have to 
denounce him." Decaen was moved to tears, and in- 
sisted that Napoleon was ill informed. "You are good 
yourself," said the First Consul, "and you think every- 

* Napoleon's Correspondance, Document 5596. 


body else is like you. Moreau is corresponding with 
Pichegru," whose conspiracy was known to the Govern- 
ment. "It is not possible." "But I have a letter which 
proves it." Moreover, Moreau was openly disrespect- 
ful to the Government. He had presented himself 
out of uniform on occasions when courtesy demanded 
that he should wear it. If Moreau had anything to 
complain about, he did not make it better by associating 
with malcontents. "He has occupied a high position, 
which gives him influence, and a bad influence upon 
public opinion hampers the work of the Government. 
I have not fallen here out of the sky, you know; I 
follow my glory. France wants repose, not more dis- 
turbance." Decaen manfully championed his friend, 
"I am persuaded," he said, "that if you made overtures 
to Moreau you would easily draw him towards you." 
"No," said Napoleon "he is a shifting sand." Moreau 
said to Decaen, "I am too old to bend my back"; but 
the latter was of opinion that the real source of the 
mischief was that Moreau had married a young wife, 
and that she and his mother-in-law considered they were 
entitled to as much attention as Madame Bonaparte 
received. Pride, jealousy and vanity, he declared, were 
the real source of the quarrel. Decaen, indeed, has a 
story that when Madame Moreau once called upon 
Josephine at Malmaison, she returned in an angry state 
of mind because she was not at once admitted, bidding 
a servant tell her mistress that the wife of General 
Moreau was not accustomed to be kept waiting. The 
simple explanation was that Josephine was in her bath ! 

Decaen came to be appointed Governor of Ile-de- 
France in this way. One day, after dining with 
Napoleon at Malmaison, the First Consul took a stroll 
with him, and in the course of conversation asked him 
what he wanted to do. "I have my sword for the ser- 
vice of my country," said Decaen. "Very good," 


answered Napoleon, "but what would you like to do 
now?" Decaen then mentioned that he had been 
reading the history of the exploits of La Bourdonnaye 
and Dupleix in India, and was much attracted 
by the possibilities for the expansion of French 
power there. "Have you ever been to India?" 
enquired Napoleon. "No, but I am young, and, 
desiring to do something useful, I should like to 
undertake a mission which I believe would not 
be likely to be coveted by many, having regard to the 
distance between France and that part of the world. 
And even if it were necessary to spend ten years of my 
life awaiting a favourable opportunity of acting against 
the English, whom I detest because of the injury they 
have done to our country, I should undertake the task 
with the utmost satisfaction." Napoleon merely ob- 
served that what he desired might perhaps be arranged. 

A few months later Decaen was invited to breakfast 
with Napoleon at Malmaison. He was asked whether 
he was still inclined to go to India, and replied that he 
was. "Very well, then, you shall go." "In what 
capacity?" "As Captain-General. Go and see the 
Minister of Marine, and tell him to show you all the 
papers relative to the expedition that is in course of 
being fitted out." 

Under the treaty of Amiens, negotiated in 1801, 
Great Britain agreed to restore to the French Republic 
and its allies all conquests made during the recent wars 
except Trinidad and Ceylon. From the British point 
of view it was an inglorious peace. Possessions which 
had been won in fair fight, by the ceaseless activity and 
unparalleled efficiency of the Navy, and by the blood 
and valour of British manhood, were signed away with 
a stroke of the pen. The surrender of the Cape was 
especially lamentable, because upon security at that 
point depended the safety of India and Australia. But 


the Addington ministry was weak and temporising, and 
was alarmed about the internal condition of England, 
where dear food, scarcity of employment and popular 
discontent, consequent upon prolonged warfare, made the 
King's advisers nervously anxious to put an end to the 
struggle. The worst feature of the situation was that 
everybody thoroughly well understood that it was a mere 
parchment peace. Cornwallis called it "an experimental 
peace." It was also termed "an armistice" and "a 
frail and deceptive truce"; and though Addington 
declared it to be "no ordinary peace but a genuine 
reconciliation between the two first nations of the 
world," his flash of rhetoric dazzled nobody but him- 
self. He was the Mr. Perker of politics, an accom- 
modating attorney rubbing his hands and exclaiming 
"My dear sir!" while he bartered the interests of his 
client for the delusive terms of a brittle expediency. 

Decaen was to go to India to take charge of the 
former French possessions there, under the terms of 
the treaty, and from Pondicherry was also to control 
Ile-de-France (Mauritius) which the English had not 
taken during the war. Napoleon's instructions to him 
clearly indicated that he did not expect the peace to 
endure. Decaen was "to dissimulate the views of the 
Government as much as possible"; "the English are the 
tyrants of India, they are uneasy and jealous, it is 
necessary to behave towards them with suavity, dissimu- 
lation and simplicity." He was to regard his mission 
primarily as one of observation upon the policy and 
military dispositions of the English. But Napoleon in- 
formed him in so many words that he intended some 
day to strike a blow for "that glory which perpetuates 
the memory of men throughout the centuries." For 
that, however, it was first necessary "that we should 
become masters of the sea."* 

•Memoires, II., 310. 


Decaen sailed from Brest in February, 1803. Lord 
Whitworth, the British ambassador to Paris, watched 
the proceedings with much care, and promptly directed 
the attention of his Government to the disproportionate 
number of officers the new Captain-General was taking 
with him. The Government passed the information on 
to the Governor-General of India, Lord Wellesley, who 
was already determined that, unless absolutely ordered 
so to do, he would not permit a French military force to 
land. Before Decaen arrived at Pondicherry, indeed, 
in June, 1803, Wellesley had received a despatch from 
Lord Hobart, Secretary of State for War and the 
Colonies, warning him that, notwithstanding the treaty 
of Amiens, u certain circumstances render desirable a 
delay in the restitution of their possessions in India" to 
the French, and directing that territory occupied by 
British troops was not to be evacuated by them without 
fresh orders. Great Britain already perceived the 
fragility of the peace, and, in fact, was expediting 
preparations for a renewal of war, which was declared 
in May, 1803. 

When, therefore, the French frigate Marengo, with 
Decaen on board, arrived at Pondicherry, the British 
flag still flew over the Government buildings, and he 
soon learnt that there was no disposition to lower it. 
Moreover, La Belle Poule, which had been sent in ad- 
vance from the Cape to herald the Captain-General's 
coming, was anchored between two British ships of 
war, which had carefully ranged themselves alongside 
her. Decaen grasped the situation rapidly. A few 
hours after his arrival, the French brig Belier appeared. 
She had left France on March 25th, carrying a despatch 
informing the Captain-General that war was antici- 
pated, and directing him to land his troops at Ile-de- 
France, where he was to assume the governorship. 

Rear-Admiral Linois, who commanded the French 


division, wanted to sail at once. Decaen insisted on 
taking aboard some of the French who were ashore, but 
Linois pointed to the strong British squadron in sight, 
and protested that he ought not to compromise the 
safety of his ships by delaying departure. Linois was 
always a very nervous officer. Decaen stormed, and 
Linois proposed to call a council of his captains. "A 
council!" exclaimed Decaen, "I am the council!" It 
was worthy of what Voltaire attributed to Louis XIV. : 
" I'etat, c'est mois" After sunset Decaen visited 
the ships of the division in a boat, and warned 
their captains to get ready to follow the Marengo out 
of the roadstead of Pondicherry in the darkness. He 
considered that it would be extremely embarrassing if 
the British squadron, suspecting their intentions, en- 
deavoured to frustrate them. At an appointed hour 
the Marengo quietly dropped out of the harbour, cut- 
ting the cable of one of her anchors rather than permit 
any delay. 

On August 15 th Decaen landed at Port Louis, Ile- 
de-France, and on the following day he took over the 
government. He had therefore been in command 
exactly four months when Matthew Flinders, in the 
Cumberland, put into Baye du Cap on December 15th. 

For his conduct in the Flinders affair Decaen has 
been plentifully denounced. "A brute," "a malignant 
tyrant," "vindictive, cruel and unscrupulous" — such are 
a few shots from the heavy artillery of language that 
have been fired at his reputation. The author knows 
of one admirer of Flinders who had a portrait of 
Decaen framed and hung with its face to the wall of 
his study. It is, unfortunately, much easier to denounce 
than to understand; and where resonant terms have been 
flung in freest profusion, it does not appear that an 
endeavour has been made to study what occurred from 
the several points of view, and to examine Decaen's 


character and actions in the light of full information. 
A postponement of epithets until we have ascertained 
the facts is in this, as in so many other cases, extremely 

No candid reader of Decaen's Memoires, and of 
Prentout's elaborate investigation of his administration, 
can fail to recognise that he was a conspicuously honest 
man. During his governorship he handled millions of 
francs. Privateers from Ile-de-France captured British 
merchant ships, to a value, including their cargo, of 
over £3,000,000 sterling,* a share of which it would 
have been easy for Decaen to secure. But his financial 
reputation is above suspicion. His management was 
economical and efficient. He ended his days in honour- 
able poverty. 

He was blunt and plainspoken ; and though he could 
be pleasant, was when ruffled by no means what Mrs. 
Malaprop called "the very pineapple of politeness." 
His quick temper brought him into continual conflict 
with superiors and subordinates. He quarrelled 
repeatedly with generals and ministers; with Admiral 
Linois, with Soult, with Decres, with Barras, with 
Jourdan, and with many others. When General 
Lecourbe handed him a written command during the 
Rhine campaign, he says himself that, "when I received 
the order I tightened my lips and turned my back upon 
him." He speaks of himself in one place as being "of 
a petulant character and too free with my tongue." 
That concurs with Flinders' remark, after bitter ex- 

* Prentout, p. 509, estimates the value of captures at £2,000,000, 
but Mr. H. Hope informed Flinders in 1811, that insurance offices 
in Calcutta had actually paid £3,000,000 sterling on account of ships 
captured by the French at Mauritius. Flinders, writing with ex- 
ceptional opportunities for forming an opinion, calculated that 
during the first sixteen months of the war the French captures of 
British merchant ships brought to Ile-de-France were worth 
£1,948,000 (Voyage II., 416). 


perience of Decaen, that he possessed "the character of 
having a good heart, though too hasty and violent." 

Decaen's military capacity was much higher than his 
historical reputation might lead one to suppose. During 
the fierce wars of the Napoleonic empire, whilst Ney, 
Oudinot, Murat, Junot, Augereau, Soult, St. Cyr ; 
Davoust, Lannes, Marmont, Massena and Suchet, 
were rendering brilliant service under the eye of the 
great captain, and were being converted into dukes and 
princes, Decaen was shut up in a far-off isle in the 
Indian Ocean, where there was nothing to do but hold 
on under difficulties, and wait in vain for the turn of a 
tide that never floated a French fleet towards the 
coveted India. Colonel Picard, than whom there is 
hardly a better judge, is of opinion that had Decaen 
fought with the Grand Army in Europe, his military 
talents would have designated him for the dignity of a 
marshal of the Empire. On his return he did become 
a Comte, but then the Napoleonic regime was tottering 
to its fall. 

Such then was the man — stubborn, strong-willed, 
brusque, honest, irritable, ill-tempered, but by no means 
a bad man at heart — with whom Matthew Flinders had 
to do. We may now follow what occurred. 

Chapter XXII. 

At four o'clock in the afternoon of December 17th the 
Cumberland entered Port Louis, where Flinders learnt 
that he Geographe had sailed for France on the 
previous day. As soon as he could land he went ashore 
to present himself to the Governor, whom he found to 
be at dinner. To occupy the time until an interview 
could be arranged, he joined a party of officers who 
were lounging in a shady place, and gossiped with them 
about his voyage, about Baudin's visit to Port Jackson, 
about the English settlement there, "and also concerning 
the voyage of Monsieur Flindare, of whom, to their 
surprise, I knew nothing, but afterwards found it to be 
my own name which they so pronounced." 

In a couple of hours he was conducted to Govern- 
ment House, where, after a delay of half an hour, he 
was shown into a room. At a table stood two officers. 
One was a short, thick man in a gold-laced mess jacket, 
who fixed his eyes sternly on Flinders, and at once de- 
manded his passport and commission. This was General 
Decaen. Beside him stood his aide-de-camp, Colonel 
Monistrol. The General glanced over the papers, and 
then enquired "in an impetuous manner," why Flinders 
had come to Ile-de-France in the Cumberland, when 
his passport was for the Investigator. The necessary 
explanation being given, Decaen exclaimed impatiently, 
"You are imposing on me, sir! It is not probable that 
the Governor of New South Wales should send away 
the commander of a discovery expedition in so small a 
vessel." Decaen's own manuscript Memoir es show 
that when this story was told to him, he thought it 



"very extraordinary that he should have left Port Jack- 
son to voyage to England in a vessel of 29 tons;" and> 
in truth, to a man who knew nothing of Flinders' record 
of seamanship it must have seemed unlikely. He 
handed back the passport and commission, and gave 
some orders to an officer; and as Flinders was leaving 
the room "the Captain-General said something in a 
softer tone about my being well treated, which I could 
not comprehend." 

It is clear that Decaen's brusque manner made 
Flinders very angry. He did not know at this time 
that it was merely the General's way, and that he was 
not at all an ill-natured man if discreetly handled. On 
board the Cumberland, in company with the interpreter 
and an officer, who were very polite, he confesses having 
"expressed my sentiments of General Decaen's manner 
of receiving me," adding "that the Captain-General's 
conduct must alter very much before I should pay him 
a second visit, or even set my foot on shore again." It 
is very important to notice Flinders' state of mind, 
because it is apparent that a whole series of unfortunate 
events turned upon his demeanour at the next interview. 
His anger is perfectly intelligible. He was a British 
officer, proud of his service; he had for years been 
accustomed to command, and to be obeyed; he knew 
that he was guiltless of offence; he felt that he had a 
right to protection and consideration under his pass- 
port. Believing himself to have been affronted, he was 
not likely to be able to appreciate the case as it presented 
itself at the moment to this peppery general; that here 
was the captain of an English schooner who, as 
reported, had chased a French vessel into Baye du Cap, 
and who gave as an explanation that he had called to 
seek assistance while on a 16,000 mile voyage, in a 
29-ton boat. Surely Flinders' story, as Decaen saw it 
at this time, was not a probable one; and at all events 


he, as Governor of Ile-de-France, had a duty to satisfy 
himself of its truth. We can well understand Flinders' 
indignation; but can we not also appreciate Decaen's 

The officers, acting under instructions, collected all 
the charts, papers, journals, letters, and packets, found 
on board, and put them in a trunk which, says Flinders, 
"was sealed by me at their desire." They then requested 
him to go ashore with them, to a lodging at an inn, which 
the General had ordered to be provided for him. In 
fact, they had orders to take him there. "What! I 
exclaimed in the first transports of surprise and indigna- 
tion, I am then a prisoner!" The officers expressed the 
hope that the detention would not last more than a few 
days, and assured him that in the meantime he should 
want for nothing. Flinders, accompanied by Aken, 
went ashore, and the two were escorted to a large house 
in the middle of the town, the Cafe Marengo, where 
they were shown into a room approached by a dark 
entry up a dirty staircase, and left for the night with a 
sentry on guard in the passage outside. 

That Flinders had no doubt that he would soon be 
released, is shown by the fact that he wrote from the 
tavern the following letter to the captain of the Ameri- 
can ship Hunter, then lying in Port Louis: — "Sir, 
understanding that you are homeward bound, I have to 
represent to you that I am here with an officer and nine 
men belonging to His Britannic Majesty's ship Investi- 
gator, lately under my command, and if I am set at 
liberty should be glad to get a passage on board your 
vessel to St. Helena, or on any other American who 
does not touch at the Cape of Good Hope* and may be 
in want of men. I am, Sir, etc., etc., Matthew 

* He did not wish to call at the Cape, because if he got clear of 
the French fryingpan he did not want to jump into the Dutch fire. 


"If it is convenient for you to call upon me at 
the tavern where I am at present confined, I shall be 
glad to see you as soon as possible." 

Early in the afternoon of the following day Colonel 
Monistrol came to the inn to take Flinders and Aken 
before the General, who desired to ask certain questions. 
The interrogatories were read from a paper, as 
dictated by Decaen, and Flinders' answers were trans- 
lated and written down. In the document amongst 
Decaen's papers the French questions and answers are 
written on one side of the paper, with the English ver- 
sion parallel; the latter being signed by Flinders. The 
translation is crude (the scribe was a German with some 
knowledge of English) but is printed below literally: — 

"Questions made to the commanding officier of an 
English shooner anchored in Savanna Bay, at the Isle 
of France, on the 24th frimaire 12th year (on the 17th 
December, 1803) chasing a coaster, which in conse- 
quence of the declaration of war between the French 
Republic and Great Britain, had intention to avoid the 
poursuit of said shooner. Said shooner carried 
the next day in the harbour of Port North- West, where 
she anchored under cartel colours, the commanding 
officer having declared to the officer of the health boat 
that his name was Matthew Flinders, and his schooner 
the Cumberland. 

"Demanded: the Captain's name? 
"Answered: Matthew Flinders. 
"D. : From what place the Cumberland sailed? 
"A.: From Port Jackson. 
"D. : At what time? 

"A. : The Captain does not recollect the date of his 
departure. He thinks it is on the 20th of September. 
"D. : What is the purpose of his expedition? 
"A. : His only motive was to proceed on to England 




as soon as possible, to make the report of his voyages 
and to request a ship to continue them. 

"D. : What can be the reason which has determined 
Captain Flinders to undertake a voyage on board of the 
so small a vessel? 

"A. : To avoid losing two months on proceeding by 
China, for a ship sailing from Port Jackson was to put 
in China. 

U D. : Does not Port Jackson offer frequent oppor- 
tunities for Europe? 

"A. : There are some, as he has observed it above, 
but that ship putting in China is the reason which 
determined him not to proceed that way. 

"D. : At what place had the Cumberland put in? 
"A.: At Timor. 

"D. : What could be the reason of her putting in at 

"A. : To take fresh provision and water. He has 
left Timor 34 days ago. 

D. : What passports or certificates has he taken in 
that place? 

"A. : None. 

"D. : What has been his motive for his coming at 
the Isle of France? 

"A.: The want of water. His pumpers (sic) are 
bad, and his vessel is very leaky. 

U D. : To what place does Captain Flinders intend 
to go to from this island? 

"A. : Having no passport for the Dutch Govern- 
ment, he cannot put in the Cape, according to his 
wishes, and will be obliged to stop at St. Helena. 

"D. : What can be the reason of his having none 
of his officiers, naturalis, or any of the other persons 
employed in said expedition? 


"A. : Two of these gentlemen have remained in Port 
Jackson to repair on board of the ship Captain Flinders 
expected to obtain in England,* and the rest have pro- 
ceeded on to China. 

"D. : What reason induced Captain Flinders to 
chase a boat in sight of the island? 

"A. : Being never to this island, he was not ac- 
quainted with the harbour. Seeing a French vessel he 
chased hert for the only purpose of obtaining a pilot, 
and seeing her entering a bay he followed her. 

"D. : What reason had he to make the land to lee- 
wards, the different directories pointing out the con- 
trary route to anchor in the harbour. 

"A. : He came to windwards, but the wind shifting 
contrary he took to leewards and perceiving said vessel 
he followed her and anchored in the same bay. He has 
no chart of the island. 

"D. : Why has he hoisted cartel colours? 

"A. : He answers that it is the custom, since Captain 
Baudin coming to Port Jackson hoisted the colours of 
both nations. 

"D. : Was he informed of the war? 

"A. : No. 

"D. : Has he met with any ship either at sea or in 
the different ports where he put in? 

"A. : He met one ship only, by the 6° or 7° to the 
east of the Isle of France. He did not speak her, 

* "Pour s'embarquer sur le vaisseau que le Cap. Flinders a espoir 
d'obtenir en Angleterre," in the French. That is to say, Brown and 
Bauer remained behind till Flinders came out again with another 

t It is singular that Flinders did not take exception to this word 
"chased" in the translation when he signed it. The French version 
of his statement is correct : "il forca de voile, non pour luy appuyer 
chasse mais pour luy demander un pilote." The German trans- 
lator boggled between the French and the English. 


though desirous of so doing, being prevented by the 
night. He met with no ship at Timor. 

"In consequence of the questions made to Captain 
Flinders respecting to his wreck, he declares that after 
putting in at Port Jackson with the ship under his com- 
mand, he was through her bad condition obliged to 
leave her, being entirely decayed. The Governor 
at that time furnished him with a ship thought 
capable of transporting him to Europe. He 
had the misfortune to wreck on the east coast 
of New Holland by the 22° 11' of latitude south 
on some rock distant 700 miles from Port Jackson, and 
200 miles from the coast. He embarked in the said 
ship's boat, taking with him 14 men, and left the re- 
mainder of his crew on a sand bank. He lost on this 
occasion three charts respecting his voyages and 
particularly Golph Carpentary. After 14 days' passage 
he arrived at Port Jackson. After tarrying in said 
place 8 or 9 days, the Governor furnished him with the 
small vessel he is now in, and a ship to take the re- 
mainder of the crew left on the bank. This vessel not 
being a government ship and bound to China, proceeded 
on her intended voyage with the officers and the crew 
which had been left on the bank. 

"Captain Flinders declares that of the two boxes 
remitted by him one contains despatches directed to the 
Secretary of State and the other was entrusted to him 
by the commanding officer of the troops in Port Jack- 
son, and that he is ignorant what they contain. 

"Captain Mw. Flinders to ascertain the legality of 
this expedition and the veracity of what he expose,* 
has opened in our presence a trunk sealed by him con- 
taining the papers having a reference to his expedition, 
and to give us a copy by him certified of the passport 

* "La verity de son expose," i.e., the truth of his statement. 


delivered to him by the First Consul and His Majesty- 
King of Great Britain; equally the communication 
of his journal since the condemnation of his ship 

"Port North- West, He of France, the 26th frimaire 
12th year of the French Republic (answering to the 
19th December, 1803). 

"(Signed) Mattw. Flinders." 

Flinders corroborates the statement regarding the 
taking of papers from the trunk, stating that they con- 
sisted of the third volume of his rough log-book, which 
contained "the whole of what they desired to know," 
respecting his voyage to Ile-de-France. He told 
Decaen's Secretary to make such extracts as were con- 
sidered requisite, "pointing out the material passages." 
"All the books and papers, the third volume of my 
rough log-book excepted, were then returned into the 
trunk, and sealed as before." It is important to notice 
that at no time were papers taken from the trunk with- 
out Flinders' knowledge and concurrence, because the 
charge has frequently been made, even by historical 
writers of authority,* that his charts were plagiarised 
by the cartographers of Baudin's expedition. Flinders 
himself never made any such allegation, nor is there any 
foundation for it. On the contrary, as will be made 
clear hereafter, neither Decaen and his officers, nor any 
of the French, ever saw any of Flinders' charts at any 

Immediately after the examination the General, on 
behalf of Madame Decaen, sent Flinders an invitation 
to dine, dinner being then served. At this point, one 

* In the Cambridge Modern History, for instance (ix., 739) : 
"The French authorities at Mauritius having captured and im- 
prisoned the explorer Flinders on his passage to England, attempted 
by the use of his papers to appropriate for their ships the credit 
of his discoveries along the south coast of Australia." 


cannot help feeling, he made a tactical mistake. It is 
easily understood, and allowance can be made for it, 
but the consequences of it were serious. He was angry 
on account of his detention, irritated by the treatment 
to which he had been subjected, and unable in his present 
frame of mind to appreciate the Governor's point of 
view. He refused to go, and said he had already dined. 
The officer who bore the invitation pressed him in a 
kindly manner, saying that at all events he had better 
go to the table. Flinders replied that he would not; 
if the General would first set him at liberty he would 
accept the invitation with pleasure, and be flattered by 
it. Otherwise he would not sit at table with Decaen. 
"Having been grossly insulted both in my public and 
private character, I could not debase the situation I had 
the honour to hold." 

The effect of so haughty a refusal upon an inflamma- 
tory temper like that of Decaen may be readily pictured. 
Presently an aide-de-camp returned with the message 
that the General would renew the invitation when Cap- 
tain Flinders was set at liberty. There was a menace 
in the cold phrase. 

Now, had Flinders bottled up his indignation and 
swallowed his pride — had he frankly recognised that he 
was in Decaen's power — had he acknowledged that 
some deference was due to the official head of the colony 
of a foreign nation with whom his country was at war — 
his later troubles might have been averted. An oppor- 
tunity was furnished of discussing the matter genially 
over the wine and dessert. He would have found him- 
self in the presence of a man who could be kind-hearted 
and entertaining when not provoked, and of a charming 
French lady in Madame Decaen. He would have been 
assisted by the secretary, Colonel Monistrol, who was 
always as friendly to him as his duty would permit. He 
would have been able to hold the company spell-bound 


with the story of the many adventures of his active, use- 
ful life. He would have been able to demonstrate his 
bona fides completely. It is a common experience that 
the humane feelings of men of Decaen's type are easily 
touched; and his conduct regarding the Napoleon- 
Moreau quarrel has been related above with some ful- 
ness for the purpose of showing that there was milk as 
well as gunpowder in his composition. But Flinders 
was angry; justifiably angry no doubt, but unfortunately 
angry nevertheless, since thereby he lost his chance. 

He learnt afterwards that "some who pretended to 
have information from near the fountain-head hinted 
that, if his invitation to dinner had been accepted, a few 
days would have been the whole" of his detention.* 
That seems probable. He had no better friend than 
Sir Joseph Banks; and he learnt to his regret that Banks 
"was not quite satisfied with his conduct to the Govern- 
ment of Mauritius, thinking he had treated them per- 
haps with too much haughtiness." His comment upon 
this was, "should the same circumstances happen to me 
again I fear I should follow nearly the same steps. "t 
That is the sort of thing that strong-willed men say; but 
a knowledge of the good sense and good feeling that 
were native to the character of Matthew Flinders 
enables one to assert with some confidence that if, after 
this experience, the choice had been presented to him, 
on the one hand of conquering his irritation and going 
to enjoy a pleasant dinner in interesting company with 
the prospect of speedy liberation; on the other of scorn- 
fully disdaining the olive branch, with the consequence 
of six-and-a-half years of heart-breaking captivity; he 
would have chosen the former alternative without much 
reluctance. There is a sentence in one of his own 

* Flinders, Voyage II., 398. 
t Flinders' Papers. 


letters which indicates that wisdom counted for more 
than obstinacy in his temperament: "After a misfortune 
has happened, we all see very well the proper steps that 
ought to have been taken to avoid it; to be endowed 
with a never-failing foresight is not within the power 
of man." 

That the view presented above is not too strong is 
clear from a passage in an unpublished portion 
of Decaen's Memoires. He stated that after 
the examination of Flinders, "I sent him an invitation 
from my wife* to come to dine with us, although 
he had given me cause to withhold the invitation 
on account of his impertinence; but from boorish- 
ness, or rather from arrogance, he refused that 
courteous invitation, which, if accepted, would indubit- 
ably have brought about a change favourable to his 
position, through the conversation which would have 
taken place."t Here it is distinctly suggested that if 
the invitation had been accepted, and a pleasant dis- 
cussion of the case had ensued, the detention of the 
Cumberland and her commander would probably not 
have been prolonged. 

Further light is thrown on these regrettable occur- 
rences by a manuscript history of Ile-de-France, written 
by St. Elme le Due,! a friend of Decaen, who possessed 
intimate knowledge of the General's feelings. It is 
therein stated that Decaen received Flinders u in uni- 

* Flinders does not state that the invitation came from Madame 
Decaen. He may not have understood. But the refusal of it would 
on that account have been likely to make the General all the more 

f Decaen Papers, Vol. 10. Decaen said in his despatch to the 
Minister : "Captain Flinders imagined that he would obtain his 
release by arguing, by arrogance, and especially by impertinence; 
my silence with regard to his first letter led him to repeat the 

X Bibliotheque Nationale, nouveaux -acquisitions, France, No. 1, 


form, the head uncovered," but that "Captain Flinders 
presented himself with arrogance, his hat upon his 
head; they had to ask him to remove it." The same 
writer alleges that Flinders disregarded all the rules of 
politeness. It is fair to state these matters, since the 
candid student must always wish to see a case presented 
from several points of view. But it must be said that 
only an intense feeling of resentment could have un- 
hinged the courteous disposition which was habitual 
with Flinders. A gentler man in his relations with all 
could hardly have been found. He was not more 
respectful to authority than he was considerate to sub- 
ordinates; and throughout his career a close reading of 
his letters and journals, and of documents relating to 
him, can discover no other instance of even temporary 
deviation from perfect courtesy. Even in this case 
one can hardly say that he was to blame. There was 
sufficient in what occurred to make an honest man 
angry. But we wish to understand what occurred and 
why it occurred, and for that reason we cannot ignore 
or minimise the solitary instance wherein a natural 
flame of anger fired a long train of miserable conse- 

What, then, did Decaen intend to do with Flinders, 
at the beginning? He never intended to keep him six- 
and-a-half years. He simply meant to punish him for 
what he deemed to be rudeness; and his method of 
accomplishing that object was to report to Paris, and 
allow the case to be determined by the Government, 
instead of settling it himself forthwith. Here again 
Flinders was well informed. His journal for May 
24th, 1806, contains the following entry:* "It has been 
said that I am detained a prisoner here solely because 
I refused the invitation of General Decaen to dine; that 

* Flinders' Papers. 


to punish me he referred the judgment of my case to 
the French Government, knowing that I should neces- 
sarily be detained twelve months before an answer 
arrived." Or, as he stated the matter in his published 
book (II., 489) : "My refusal of the intended honour 
until set at liberty so much exasperated the Captain- 
General that he determined to make me repent it." 

It will be seen presently that the term of detention, 
originally intended to endure for about a year, was 
lengthened by circumstances that were beyond Decaen's 
control; that the punishment which sprang from the 
hasty ire of a peppery soldier increased, against his own 
will, into what appeared to all the world, and most of 
all to the victim, to be a piece of malevolent persecution. 
The ball kicked off in a fit of spleen rolled on and on 
beyond recovery. 

There was, it must be admitted, quite enough in the 
facts brought under Decaen's notice to warrant a 
reference to Paris, if he chose to be awkward. In the 
first place, Flinders was carrying on board the Cumber- 
land a box of despatches from Governor King for the 
Secretary of State. As pointed out in Chapter 12, the 
Admiralty instructions for the Investigator voyage 
cautioned him "not to take letters or packets other than 
those such as you may receive from this office or the 
office of His Majesty's Scretary of State." Governor 
King was well aware of this injunction. Yet he en- 
trusted to Flinders this box of despatches, containing 
material relative to military affairs. It is true that a 
state of war was not known to exist at the time when the 
Cumberland sailed from Port Jackson in September, 
1803, although as a matter of fact it had broken out 
in the previous May. But it was well known that war 
was anticipated. It is also true that Flinders knew 
nothing of the contents of the despatches. But neither, as 


a rule, does any other despatch carrier in war time. When 
the Cumberland's papers were examined by Decaen's 
officers, and these despatches were read and translated, 
there was at once a prima facie ground for saying, "this 
officer is not engaged on purely scientific work; he is the 
bearer of despatches which might if delivered have 
an influence upon the present war." Flinders himself, 
writing to Banks,* said: "I have learnt privately that 
in the despatches with which I was charged by Governor 
King, and which were taken from me by the French 
General, a demand was made for troops to be sent out 
to Port Jackson for the purpose of annoying Spanish 
America in the event of another war, and that this is 
considered to be a breach of my passport. 'Tis pity 
that Governor King should have mentioned anything 
that could involve me in the event of a war, either with 
the French at Mauritius, or the Dutch at Timor or the 
Cape; or chat, having mentioned anything that related 
to war, he did not make me acquainted in a general way 
with the circumstances, in which case I should have 
thrown them overboard on learning that war was de- 
clared; but as I was situated, having little apprehension 
of being made a prisoner, and no idea that the des- 
patches had any reference to war, since it was a time of 
peace when I left Port Jackson, I did not see the 
necessity of throwing them overboard at a hazard. To 
be the bearer of any despatches in time of peace cannot 
be incorrect for a ship on discovery more than for any 
other; but with a passport, and in time of war, it cer- 
tainly is improper." With characteristic straight- 
forwardness, Flinders did not hesitate to tell King him- 
self that the despatches had cast suspicion on him:t 
"I have learned privately that in your despatches to the 

* Historical Records, VI., 49. 
t Historical Records, VI., 105. 


Secretary of State there is mention of Spanish America, 
which rendered me being the bearer, criminal with res- 
pect to my passport. 'Tis pity I had not known any- 
thing of this, for on finding myself under the necessity 
of stopping at the Isle of France, and learning the 
declaration of war, I should have destroyed the des- 
patches; but leaving Port Jackson in time of peace, and 
confiding in my passport, I did not think myself author- 
ised to take such a step, even after I knew of the war, 
having no idea there was anything in the despatches 
that could invalidate my passport; neither, indeed, is it 
invalidated in justice, but it is said to be the under-plea 
against me." 

These despatches of King are preserved among 
Decaen's papers,* and an examination of them reveals 
that they did contain material of a military character. 
In one of them, dated August 7th, 1803, King referred 
to the possibility in any future war "of the Government 
of the Isle of France annoying this colony, as the voyage 
from hence may be done in less than seven weeks; and 
on the same idea this colony may hereafter annoy the 
trade of the Spanish settlements on the opposite coast. 
But to defend this colony against the one, and to annoy 
the other, it would be necessary that some regard should 
be had to the military and naval defences. The de- 
fences of the port may be made as strong as in any port 
I know of. By the return of cannon and batteries your 
Lordship will observe that those we have are placed in 
the best situation for annoying an enemy. Still, a small 
establishment of artillery officers and men are wanted 
to work those guns effectually in case of necessity." 
King went on to make recommendations for the in- 
crease of the military strength in men, officers, and 
guns. The originals of those despatches, which could 

• Decaen Papers, Vols. 84 and 105. 


furnish the French Government with valuable informa- 
tion concerning Port Jackson and the Flinders affair, 
are endorsed, "letters translated and sent to France ;" 
and Decaen commented upon them that in his opinion 
the despatches alone afforded a sufficient pretext for 
detaining Flinders. "Ought a navigator engaged in 
discovery, and no longer possessing a passport for his 
ship, to be in time of war in command of a despatch- 
boat,* especially when, having regard to the distance 
between the period of the declaration of war and his 
departure from Port Jackson he could have obtained 
there the news that war had broken out?" 

In reporting to his Government Decaen related the 
story of the Cumberland's arrival from his point of 
view at considerable length. He expressed himself as 
satisfied that her commander really was Captain Flin- 
ders of the Investigator, to whom the French Govern- 
ment had issued a passport; detailed the circumstances 
of the examination; and complained of Flinders' "im- 
pertinence" and "arrogance." Then he proceeded to 
describe "several motives which have caused me to 
judge it to be indispensable to detain Captain Flinders." 

The first motive alleged was "the conduct of the 
English Government in Europe, where she has violated 
all treaties, her behaviour before surrendering the Cape 
of Good Hope, and her treatment of our ships at Pondi- 
cherry." In no way could it be pretended that Flinders 
was connected with these events. 

The second motive was "the seizing of Le Natural- 
iste, as announced by the newspapers." Decaen was 
here referring to the fact that, when Le Naturaliste 
was on her homeward voyage from Port Jackson, con- 
veying the natural history collections, she was stopped 
by the British frigate Minerva and taken into Ports- 

* "Devait-il en temps de guerre conduire un paquebot?" 


mouth. But no harm was done to her. She was 
merely detained from May 27th, 1803, till June 6th, 
when she was released by order of the Admiralty. In 
any case Flinders had nothing to do with that. 

The third motive was that Captain Flinders' log- 
book showed an intention to make an examination of 
Ile-de-France and Madagascar, from which Decaen 
drew the inference that, if the English Government 
received no check, they would extend their power, and 
would seize the French colony. Herein the General 
did a serious injustice to Flinders. His log-book did 
indeed indicate that he desired "to acquire a knowledge 
of the winds and weather periodically encountered at 
Ile-de-France, of the actual state of the French colony, 
and of what utility it and its dependencies in Madagascar 
might be to Port Jackson, and whether that island could 
afford resources to myself in my future voyages." 
But information of this description was such as lay with 
in the proper province of an explorer; and the log-book 
contained no hint, nor was there a remote intention, of 
acquiring information which, however used, could be 
Inimical to the security of the French colony. 

Decaen's mind had been influenced by reading 
Frangois Peron's report to him concerning the expansive 
designs of the British in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. 
"There is no doubt," he informed his Government, 
"that the English Government have the intention to 
seize the whole trade of the Indian Ocean, the China 
Seas and the Pacific, and that they especially covet what 
remains of the Dutch possessions in these waters." He 
derived that extravagant idea from Peron's inflamma- 
tory communication, as will be seen from a perusal of 
that interesting document. 

By these strained means, then, did Decaen give a 
semblance of public policy to his decision to detain Flin- 


ders. It would have been puerile to attempt to justify 
his action to his superiors on the personal ground that 
the English captain had vexed him; so he hooked in 
these various pretexts, though ingenuously acknowledg- 
ing that they would have counted for nothing if 
Flinders had dined with him and talked the matter over 
conversationally ! 

On the day following the examination and the re- 
fusal of the invitation, Flinders was again conducted on 
board the Cumberland by Colonel Monistrol and the 
official interpreter, who "acted throughout with much 
politeness, apologising for what they were obliged by 
their orders to execute." On this occasion all remain- 
ing books and papers, including personal letters, were 
collected, locked up in a second trunk, and sealed. The 
document noting their deposition and sealing was 
signed by Flinders,* who was ordered to be detained in 
the inn under guard. It was, Decaen reported, the best 
inn in the island, and orders were given to furnish the 
prisoner with all that he could want; but Flinders des- 
cribed it as an exceedingly dirty place. 

On his return to the inn from the ship Flinders 
wrote a letter to the Governor, recounting the history 
of his explorations, and making two requests : that he 
might have his printed books ashore, and that his ser- 
vant, John Elder, might be permitted to attend him. 
On the following day Elder was sent to him. On the 
22nd he wrote again, soliciting "that I may be able to 
sail as soon as possible after you shall be pleased to 
liberate me from my present state of purgatory."* On 
Christmas Day he sent a letter suffused with indignant 
remonstrance, wherein he alleged that "it appears that 
your Excellency had formed a determination to stop the 

* Decaen Papers. 


Cumberland previously even to seeing me, if a specious 
pretext were wanting for it," and reminded Decaen 
that "on the first evening of my arrival . . . you told 
me impetuously that I was imposing on you." He con- 
tinued, in a strain that was bold and not conciliatory: 
"I cannot think that an officer of your rank and judg- 
ment to act either so ungentlemanlike or so unguardedly 
as to make such a declaration without proof; unless 
his reason had been blinded by passion, or a previous 
determination that it should be so, nolens volens. 
In your orders of the 21st last it is indeed said that 
the Captain-General has acquired the conviction that 
I am the person I pretend to be, and the same for whom 
a passport was obtained by the English Government 
from the First Consul. It follows then, as I am willing 
to explain it, that I am not and was not an imposter. 
This plea was given up when a more plausible one was 
thought to be found; but I cannot compliment your 
Excellency upon this alteration in your position, for the 
first, although false, is the more tenable post of the 

Decaen's reply was stiff and stern. He attributed 
"the unreserved tone" of Flinders to "the ill humour 
produced by your present situation," and concluded: 
"This letter, overstepping all the bounds of civility, 
obliges me to tell you, until the general opinion judges 
of your faults or of mine, to cease all correspondence 
tending to demonstrate the justice of your cause, 
since you know so little how to preserve the rules of 

Flinders in consequence of this snub forebore 
to make further appeals for consideration; but three 
days later he preferred a series of requests, one of which 
related to the treatment of his crew : 


"To his Excellency Captain-General Decaen, 
"Governor in Chief, etc., etc., etc., Isle of France. 
"From my confinement, Dec. 28th, 1803. 

"Since you forbid me to write to you upon the sub- 
ject of my detainer I shall not rouse the anger or con- 
tempt with which you have been pleased to treat me by 
disobeying your order. The purpose for which I now 
write is to express a few humble requests, and most 
sincerely do I wish that they may be the last I shall have 
occasion to trouble your Excellency with. 

"1st. I repeat my request of the 23rd to have my 
printed books on shore from the schooner. 

"2nd. I request to have my private letters and 
papers out of the two trunks lodged in your secretariat, 
they having no connection with my Government or the 
voyage of discovery. 

"3rd. I beg to have two or three charts and three 
or four manuscript books out of the said trunks, which 
are necessary to finishing the chart of the Gulf of 
Carpentaria and some parts adjacent. It may be 
proper to observe as an explanation of this last request 
that the parts wanting were mostly lost in the shipwreck, 
and I wish to replace them from my memory and re- 
maining materials before it is too late. Of these a 
memorandum can be taken, or I will give a receipt for 
them, and if it is judged necessary to exact it I will give 
my word that nothing in the books shall be erased or 
destroyed, but I could wish to make additions to one or 
two of the books as well as to the charts, after which 
I shall be ready to give up the whole. 

"4th. My seamen complain of being shut up at 
night in a place where not a breath of air can come to 
them, which in a climate like this must be not only un- 
comfortable in the last degree, but also very destructive 


to European constitutions; they say, further, that the 
people with whom they are placed are much affected with 
that disagreeable and contagious disorder the itch; and 
that the provisions with which they are fed are too 
scanty, except in the article of meat, the proportion of 
which is large but of bad quality. Your Excellency will 
no doubt make such an amendment in their condition as 
circumstances will permit. 

"A compliance with the above requests will not only 
furnish me with a better amusement in this solitude than 
writing letters to your Excellency, but will be attended 
with advantages in which the French nation may some 
time share. This application respecting the charts is 
not altogether made upon a firm persuasion that you will 
return everything to me, for if I could believe that they 
were never to be given to me or my Government I 
should make the same request. 

"Your prisoner, 

"Matthew Flinders." 

On the day when the letter was despatched, Colonel 
Monistrol called, and promised that the books and 
papers requested should be supplied; and, in fact, the 
trunk containing them was without delay brought to the 
inn. The Colonel courteously expressed his regret that 
Flinders had adopted such a tone in his letters to the 
General, thinking "that they might tend to protract 
rather than terminate" his confinement. The complaint 
respecting the seamen was attended to forthwith, and 
they were treated exactly on the same footing as were 
French sailors on service.* 

The first thing Flinders did, when he received the 
trunk, was to take out his naval signal-book and tear it 
to pieces. Next day he was conducted to Government 

St. Eleme le Due's MS. History. 


House, and was allowed to take from the second trunk 
all his private letters and papers, his journals of bear- 
ings and observations, two log-books, and such charts 
as were necessary to complete his drawings of the Gulf 
of Carpentaria. All the other books and papers "were 
locked up in the trunk and sealed as before." 

Until the end of March, 1804, Flinders was kept 
at the inn, with a sentry constantly on guard over the 
rooms. St. Elme le Due, in the manuscript history 
already cited, declares that "Captain Flinders was 
never put in prison," and that his custom of addressing 
letters "from my prison" was an "affectation." But a 
couple of inn rooms wherein a person is kept against 
his will, under the strict surveillance of a military cus- 
todian, certainly constitute a prison. It is true that 
the Governor allotted 450 francs per month for his 
maintenance, sent a surgeon to attend to him when scor- 
butic sores broke out upon his body, and gave him access 
to the papers and books he required in order that he 
might occupy his time and divert his mind with the work 
he loved. But it is surely quibbling to pretend that 
even under these conditions he was not a prisoner. Even 
the surgeon and the interpreter were not admitted with- 
out a written order; and when the interpreter, Bonne- 
foy, took from Flinders a bill, which he undertook to 
negotiate, the sentry reported that a paper had passed 
between the two, and Bonnefoy was arrested, nor was 
he liberated until it was ascertained that the bill was the 
only paper he had received. The bill was the subject 
of an act of kindness from the Danish consul, who 
negotiated it at face value at a time when bills upon 
England could only be cashed in Port Louis at a dis- 
count of 30 per cent. This liberal gentleman sent the 
message that he would have proffered his assistance 
earlier but for the fear of incurring the Governor's dis- 


An attempt was made in February to induce Decaen 
to send his prisoner to France for trial. It was sub- 
mitted in the following terms:* 


"Having waited six weeks with much anxiety for 
your Excellency's decision concerning me, I made appli- 
cation for the honour of an audience, but received no 
answer; a second application obtained a refusal. It was 
not my intention to trouble the Captain-General by re- 
counting my grievances, but to offer certain proposals to 
his consideration; and in now doing this by letter it is 
my earnest wish to avoid everything that can in the most 
distant manner give offence ; should I fail, my ignorance 
and not intention must be blamed. 

"1st. If your Excellency will permit me to depart 
with my vessel, papers, etc., I will pledge my honour 
not to give any information concerning the Isle of 
France, or anything belonging to it, for a limited time, 
if it is thought that I can have gained any information; 
or if it is judged necessary, any other restrictions can 
be laid upon me. If this will not be complied with I 
request — 

"2nd, to be sent to France. 

"3rd. But if it is necessary to detain me here, I 
request that my officer and my people may be permitted 
to depart in the schooner. I am desirous of this as well 
for the purpose of informing the British Admiralty 
where I am, as to relieve our families and friends from 
the report that will be spread of the total loss of the two 
ships with all on board. My officer can be laid under 
what restrictions may be thought necessary, and my 
honour shall be a security that nothing shall be trans- 

* Decaen Papers. 


mitted by me but what passes under the inspection of 
the officer who might be appointed for that purpose. 

"If your Excellency does not think proper to adopt 
any of these modes, by which, with submission, I conceive 
my voyage of discovery might be permitted to proceed 
without any possible injury to the Isle of France or its 
dependencies, I then think it necessary to remind the 
Captain-General that since the shipwreck of the Por- 
poise, which happened now six months back, my officers 
and people as well as myself have been mostly confined 
either on a very small sandbank in the open sea, or in 
a boat, or otherwise on board the small schooner 
Cumberland, where there is no room to walk, or been 
kept prisoners as at present; and also, that previous to 
this time I had not recovered from a scorbutic and very 
debilitated state arising from having been eleven months 
exposed to great fatigue, bad climates and salt pro- 
visions. From the scorbutic sores which have again 
troubled me since my arrival in this port the surgeon 
who dressed them saw that a vegetable diet and exercise 
were necessary to correct the diseased state of the blood 
and to restore my health; but his application through 
your Excellency's aide-de-camp for me to walk out, un- 
fortunately for my health and peace of mind, received 
a negative. The Captain-General best knows whether 
my conduct has deserved, or the exigencies of his 
Government require, that I should continue to remain 
closely confined in this sickly town and cut off from all 

"With all due consideration, I am, 

"Your Excellency's prisoner, 

"Matthew Flinders." 

To this petition Decaen returned no reply. Feel- 
ing therefore that his detention was likely to be pro- 
longed, Flinders, weary of confinement, and longing for 


human fellowship, applied to be removed to the place 
where British officers, prisoners of war, were kept. It 
was a large house with spacious rooms standing in a 
couple of acres of ground, about a mile from the tavern, 
and was variously called the Maison Despeaux, or the 
Garden Prison. Here at all events fresh air could be en- 
joyed. The application was acceded to immediately, and 
Colonel Monistrol himself came, with the courtesy that 
he never lost an opportunity of manifesting, to conduct 
Flinders and Aken and to assist them to choose rooms. 
"This little walk of a mile," Flinders recorded, "showed 
how debilitating is the want of exercise and fresh air, 
for it was not without the assistance of Colonel Monis- 
trol's arm that I was able to get through it. Convey- 
ances were sent in the evening for our trunks, and we 
took possession of our new prison with a considerable 
degree of pleasure, this change of situation and 
surrounding objects producing an exhilaration of spirits 
to which we had long been strangers." 

Chapter XXIII. 

We shall now see how a detention which had been 
designed as a sharp punishment of an officer who 
had not comported himself with perfect respect, 
and which Decaen never intended to be prolonged be- 
yond about twelve months, dragged itself into years, and 
came to bear an aspect of obstinate malignity. 

Decaen's despatch arrived in France during the first 
half of the year 1804. Its terms were not calculated 
to induce the French Government to regard Flinders as 
a man entitled to their consideration, even if events had 
been conducive to a speedy determination. But the 
Departments, especially those of Marine and War, 
were being worked to their full capacity upon affairs of 
the most pressing moment. Napoleon became Emperor 
of the French in that year (May), and his immense 
energy was flogging official activities incessantly. War 
with England mainly absorbed attention. At Boulogne 
a great flotilla had been organized for the invasion of 
the obdurate country across the Channel. A large fleet 
was being fitted out at Brest and at Toulon, the fleet 
which Nelson was to smash at Trafalgar in the follow- 
ing year. Matters relating to the isolated colony in the 
Indian Ocean did not at the moment command much 
interest in France. 

There were several other pieces of business, apart 
from the Flinders affair, to which Decaen wished to 
direct attention. He sent one of his aides-de-camp, 
Colonel Barois, to Paris to see Napoleon in person, if 
possible, and in any case to interview the Minister of 
Marine and the Colonies, Decres. Decaen especially 



directed Barois to see that the Flinders case was brought 
under Napoleon's notice, and he did his best* He saw 
Decres and asked him whether Decaen's despatches had 
been well received. "Ah," said the Minister pleasantly, 
in a voice loud enough to be heard by the circle of 
courtiers, "everything that comes from General Decaen 
is well received." But there was no spirit of despatch. 
Finally Barois did obtain an interview with Napoleon, 
through the aid of the Empress Josephine. He referred 
to "l'affaire Flinders," of which Napoleon knew little; 
but "he appeared to approve the reasons invoked to 
justify the conduct of Decaen." The Emperor had no 
time just then for examining the facts, and his approval 
simply reflected his trust in Decaen. As he said to the 
General's brother Rene, at a later interview, "I have the 
utmost confidence in Decaen." But meanwhile no 
direction was given as to what was to be done. It will 
be seen later how it was that pressure of business de- 
layed the despatch of an intimation to Ile-de-France of 
a step that was actually taken. 

That at this time Decaen was simply waiting for an 
order from Paris to release Flinders is clear from ob- 
servations which he made, and from news which came 
to the ears of the occupant of the Garden Prison. In 
March, 1804, he told Captain Bergeret of the French 
navy, who showed Flinders friendly attentions, to tell 
him to "have a little patience, as he should soon come to 
some determination on the affair." In August of the 
same year Flinders wrote to King that Decaen had 
stated that "I must wait until orders were received con- 
cerning me from the French Government"! A year 
later (November, 1805) he wrote: "I firmly believe 
that, if he had not said to the French Government, 

•Prentout, p. 392. 

1 Historical Records, VI., 411. 


during the time of his unjust suspicion of me, that he 
should detain me here until he received their orders, he 
would have gladly suffered me to depart long since"* 
Again, in July, 1806,t he wrote: "General Decaen, if 
I am rightly informed, is himself heartily sorry for 
having made me a prisoner," but "he remitted the judg- 
ment of my case to the French Government, and cannot 
permit me to depart or even send me to France, until he 
shall receive orders." 

The situation was, then, that Decaen, having re- 
ferred the case to Paris in order that the Government 
might deal with it, could not now, consistently with his 
duty, send Flinders away from the island until instruc- 
tions were received; and the Department concerned had 
too much pressing business on hand at the moment 
to give attention to it. Flinders had to wait. 

His health improved amidst the healthier surround- 
ings of his new abode, and he made good progress with 
his work. His way of life is described in a letter of 
May 18th, 1804:1 "My time is now employed as 
follows: Before breakfast my time is devoted to the 
Latin language, to bring up what I formerly learnt. 
After breakfast I am employed in making out a fair 
copy of the Investigator's log in lieu of my own, which 
was spoiled at the shipwreck. When tired of writing I 
apply to music, and when my fingers are tired with the 
flute, I write again till dinner. After dinner we amuse 
ourselves with billiards until tea, and afterwards walk 
in the garden till dusk. From thence till supper I make 
one at Pleyel's quartettes; afterwards walking half an 
hour, and then sleep soundly till daylight, when I get 
up and bathe." 

* Historical Records, VI., 737. 
t Ibid, VI, 106. 
% Flinders' Papers. 


A letter to his stepmother, dated August 25th, of 
the same year, comments on his situation in a mood of 
courageous resignation:* "X have gone through some 
hardships and misfortunes within the last year, but the 
greatest is that of having been kept here eight months 
from returning to my dear friends and family. My 
health is, however, good at this time, nor are my spirits 
cast down, although the tyranny of the Governor of this 
island in treating me as a spy has been grievous. I 
believe my situation is known by this time in England, 
and will probably make some noise, for indeed it is al- 
most without example. The French inhabitants even 
of this island begin to make complaints of the injustice 
of their Governor, and they are disposed to be very 
kind to me. Four or five different people have offered 
me any money I may want, or any service that they can 
do for me, but as they cannot get me my liberty their 
services are of little avail. I have a companion here in 
one of my officers, and a good and faithful servant in 
my steward, and for these last four months have been 
allowed to walk in a garden. The Governor pretends 
to say that he cannot let me go until he receives orders 
from France, and it is likely that these will not arrive 
these four months. I am obliged to call up all the 
patience that I can to bear this injustice; my great con- 
solation is that I have done nothing to forfeit my pass- 
port, or that can justify them for keeping me a prisoner, 
so I must be set at liberty with honour when the time 
comes, and my country will, I trust, reward me for my 
sufferings in having supported her cause with the spirit 
becoming an Englishman." 

A letter to Mrs. Flinders (August 24th, 1804) 
voices the yearning of the captive for the solace of 
home :* "I yesterday enjoyed a delicious piece of misery 

* Flinders' Papers. 


in reading over thy dear letters, my beloved Ann. Shall 
I tell thee that I have never before done it since I have 
been shut up in this prison? I have many friends, who 
are kind and much interested for me, and I certainly 
love them. But yet before thee they disappear as stars 
before the rays of the morning sun. I cannot connect 
the idea of happiness with anything without thee. With- 
out thee, the world would be a blank. I might indeed 
receive some gratification from distinction and the 
applause of society; but where could be the faithful 
friend who would enjoy and share this with me, into 
whose bosom my full heart could unburthen itself of 
excess of joy? Where would be that sweet intercourse 
of soul, the fine seasoning of happiness, without which 
a degree of insipidity attends all our enjoyments? . . . 
I am not without friends even among the French. On 
the contrary. I have several, and but one enemy, who 
unfortunately, alas, is all-powerful here; nor will he on 
any persuasion permit me to pass the walls of the prison, 
although some others who are thought less dangerous 
have had that indulgence occasionally." 

"When my family are the subject of my medita- 
tion," he said in a letter to his step-mother, "my bonds 
enter deep into my soul." 

His private opinion of Decaen is expressed in a 
letter written at this period:* "The truth I believe is 
that the violence of his passion outstrips his judgment 
and reason, and does not allow them to operate; for he 
is instantaneous in his directions, and should he do an 
injustice he must persist in it because it would lower his 
dignity to retract. His antipathy, moreover, is so great 
to Englishmen, who are the only nation that could pre- 
vent the ambitious designs of France from being put 

* Flinders' Papers. 


into execution, that immediately the name of one is 
mentioned he is directly in a rage, and his pretence and 
wish to be polite scarcely prevent him from breaking 
out in the presence even of strangers. With all this he 
has the credit of having a good heart at the bottom." 

The captain of a French ship, M. Coutance, whom 
Flinders had known at Port Jackson, saw Decaen on his 
behalf, and reported the result of the interview. "The 
General accused me of nothing more than of being trop 
vive; I had shown too much independence in refusing 
to dine with a man who had accused me of being an 
impostor, and who had unjustly made me a prisoner." 

Meanwhile two playful sallies penned at this time 
show that his health and appetite had mended during 
his residence at the Maison Despeaux: * u My appetite 
is so good that I believe it has the intention of reveng- 
ing me on the Governor by occasioning a famine in the 
land. Falstaff says, 'Confound this grief, it makes a 
man go thirsty; give me a cup of sack.' Instead of 
thirsty read hungry, and for a cup of sack read mutton 
chop, and the words would fit me very well." The 
second passage is from his private journal, and may 
have been the consequence of too much mutton chop: 
"Dreamt that General Decaen was sitting and lying 
upon me, to devour me ; was surprised to find devouring 
so easy to be borne, and that after death I had the 
consciousness of existence. Got up soon after six much 
agitated, with a more violent headache than usual." 

Flinders lost no opportunity of appealing to 
influential Frenchmen, relating the circumstances of his 
detention. He offered to submit himself to an exami- 
nation by the officers of Admiral Linois' squadron, and 
that commander promised to speak to Decaen on the 
subject, adding that he should be "flattered in con- 

* Flinders' Papers. 


tributing to your being set at liberty." Captain Hal- 
gan, of Le Bercean, who had been in England during 
the short peace, and had heard much of Flinders' dis- 
coveries, visited him several times and offered pecuniary 
assistance if it were required. Flinders wrote to the 
French Minister of the Treasury, Barbe-Marbois, 
urging him to intercede, and to the Comte de Fleurieu, 
one of the most influential men in French scientific 
circles, who was particularly well informed concerning 
Australian exploration. 

The flat roof of the Maison Despeaux commanded a 
view of Port Louis harbour; and, as Flinders was in 
the habit of sitting upon the roof in the cool evenings, 
enjoying the sight of the blue waters, and meditating 
upon his work and upon what he hoped still to do, 
Decaen thought he was getting to know too much. In 
June, 1804, therefore, the door to the roof was ordered 
to be nailed up, and telescopes were taken away from 
the imprisoned officers. At this time also occurred an 
incident which shows that Flinders' proud spirit was by 
no means broken by captivity. The sergeant of the 
guard demanded the swords of all the prisoners, that 
of Flinders among the rest. It was an affront to him 
as an officer that his sword should be demanded by a 
sergeant, and he promptly refused. He despatched the 
following letter to the Governor: — * 

"To His Excellency Captain-General Decaen, 

"Governor-in-Chief, etc., etc., etc. 

"Sir, — The sergeant of the guard over the prisoners 
in this house has demanded of me, by the order of 
Captain Neuville, my sword, and all other arms in my 

"Upon this subject I beg leave to represent to Your 

* Decaen Papers, Vol. 84. 


Excellency that it is highly inconsistent with my situa- 
tion in His Britannic Majesty's service to deliver up my 
arms in this manner. I am ready to deliver up to an 
officer bearing your Excellency's order, but I request 
that that officer will be of equal rank to myself. 

"I have the honour to be, 
"Your Excellency's most obedient servant and prisoner, 

"Mattw. Flinders. 
u Maison Despeaux, June 2, 1804." 

In a few days Captain Neuville called to apologise. 
It was, he said, a mistake on the part of the sergeant 
to ask for the sword. Had the Governor required it., 
an officer of equal rank would have been sent, "but he 
had no intention to make me a prisoner until he should 
receive orders to that effect." Not a prisoner! What 
was he, then? Certainly not, said Captain Neuville; 
he was merely "put under surveillance for a short 
period." Inasmuch as Flinders was being treated with 
rather more strictness than those who were confessedly 
prisoners of war, the benefit of the distinction was hard 
to appreciate. 

Flinders considered that he had been treated rather 
handsomely in the matter of the sword. But about 
three months later a junior officer, who behaved with 
much politeness, came under the orders of Colonel 
D'Arsonville, the town major, to demand it. D'Arson- 
ville had been instructed by Decaen to take possession of 
it, but had been unable to come himself. Flinders con- 
sidered that under the circumstances he had better give 
up the sword to save further trouble, and did so. The 
significance of the incident is that, having received no 
orders from France, Decaen from this time regarded 
Flinders as a prisoner of war in the technical sense. He 
felt bound to hold him until instructions arrived, and 
could only justifiably hold him as a prisoner. 


December, 1804, arrived, and still no order of 
release came. On the anniversary of his arrest, Flin- 
ders wrote the following letter to Decaen :* 

"Maison Despeaux, Dec. 16, 1804. 

"Permit me to remind you that I am yet a prisoner 
in this place, and that it is now one year since my arresta- 
tion. This is the anniversary of that day on which you 
transferred me from liberty and my peaceful occupa^ 
tions to the misery of a close confinement. 

"Be pleased, sir, to consider that the great occupa- 
tions of the French Government may leave neither time 
nor inclination to attend to the situation of an English- 
man in a distant colony, and that the chance of war may 
render abortive for a considerable time at least any 
attempts to send out despatches to this island. The 
lapse of one year shows that one or other of these cir- 
cumstances has already taken place, and the consequence 
of my detainer until orders are received from France 
will most probably be, that a second year will be cut out 
of my life and devoted to the same listless inaction as 
the last, to the destruction of my health and happiness, 
and the probable ruin of all my further prospects. I 
cannot expect, however, that my private misfortunes 
should have any influence upon Your Excellency's public 
conduct. It is from being engaged in a service calcu- 
lated for the benefit of all maritime nations; from my 
passport; the inoflensiveness of my conduct; and the 
probable delay of orders from France. Upon these 
considerations it is that my present hope of receiving 
liberty must be founded. 

"But should a complete liberation be so far incom- 
patible with Your Excellency's plan of conduct concern- 

* Decaen Papers. 


ing me as that no arguments will induce you to grant it ; 
I beg of you, General, to reflect whether every purpose 
of the most severe justice will not be answered by send- 
ing me to France; since it is to that Government, as I 
am informed, that my case is referred for decision. 

"If neither of these requests be complied with, I 
must prepare to endure still longer this anxious torment- 
ing state of suspense, this exclusion from my favourite 
and, I will add, useful employment, and from all that 
I have looked forward to attain by it. Perhaps also I 
ought to prepare my mind for a continuance of close 
imprisonment. If so, I will endeavour to bear it and 
its consequences with firmness, and may God support 
my heart through the trial. My hopes, however, tell 
me more agreeable things, that either this petition to be 
fully released with my people, books and papers will be 
accorded, or that we shall be sent to France, where, if 
the decision of the Government should be favourable, 
we can immediately return to our country, our families 
and friends, and my report of our investigations be made 
public if it shall be deemed worthy of that honour. 

"My former application for one of these alterna- 
tives was unsuccessful, but after a year's imprisonment 
and a considerable alteration in the circumstances, I 
hope this will be more fortunate. 

"With all due consideration I have the honour to 
be, Your Excellency's most obedient humble servant. 

"Mattw. Flinders." 

To this appeal the General vouchsafed no response. 

The return of the hot weather aggravated a consti- 
tutional internal complaint from which Flinders suffered 
severely. The principal physician of the medical staff 
visited him and recommended a removal to the high 
lands in the interior of the island. John Aken, the 
companion of his captivity, also became very ill, and his 


life was despaired of. In May, 1805, having some- 
what recovered, he applied to be allowed to depart with 
several other prisoners of war who were being liberated 
on parole. Very much to his surprise the permission 
was accorded. Aken left on May 20th in an American 
ship bound for New York, the captain of which gave 
him a free passage ; taking with him all the charts which 
Flinders had finished up to date, as well as the large 
general chart of Australia, showing the extent of the new 
discoveries, and all papers relating to the Investigator 
voyage. There was at this time a general exchange of 
prisoners of war, and by the middle of August the only 
English prisoners remaining in Ile-de-France were Flin- 
ders, his servant, who steadfastly refused to avail him- 
self of the opportunity to leave, and a lame seaman. 

Chapter XXIV. 

Flinders continued to reside at the Garden prison 
till August, 1805. In that month he was in- 
formed that the Governor was disposed to permit him 
to live in the interior of the island, if he so desired. 
This change would give him a large measure of 
personal freedom, he would no longer be under close 
surveillance, and he would be able to enjoy social life. 
He had formed a friendship with an urbane and culti- 
vated French gentleman, Thomas Pitot, whom he con- 
sulted, and who found for him a residence in the house 
of Madame D'Arifat at Wilhelm's Plains. 

Here commenced a period of five years and six 
months, of detention certainly, but no longer of im- 
prisonment. In truth, it was the most restful period of 
Flinders' whole life; and, if he could have banished the 
longing for home and family, and the bitter feeling of 
wrong that gnawed at his heart, and could have 
quietened the desire that was ever uppermost in his 
mind to continue the exploratory work still remaining 
to be done, his term under Madame D'Arifat's roof 
would have been delightfully happy. 

Those twenty months in Port Louis had made him 
a greatly changed man. Friends who had known him 
in the days of eager activity, when fatigues were lightly 
sustained, would scarcely have recognised the brisk ex- 
plorer in the pale, emaciated, weak, limping semi-invalid 
who took his leave of the kind-hearted sergeant of the 
guard on August 19th, and stepped feebly outside the 
iron gate in company with his friend Pitot. A portrait 



of him, painted by an amateur some time later, crude 
in execution though it is, shows the hollow cheeks of a 
man who had suffered, and conveys an idea of the 
dimmed eyes whose brightness and commanding ex- 
pression had once been remarked by many who came in 
contact with him. 

But at all events over five years of fairly pleasant 
existence were now before him. The reason why the 
period was so protracted will be explained in the 
next chapter. This one can be devoted to the life at 
Wilhelm's Plains. 

A parole was given, by which Flinders bound him- 
self not to go more than two leagues from his habitation, 
and to conduct himself with that degree of reserve 
which was becoming in an officer residing in a colony 
with whose parent state his nation was at war. 

The interior of Mauritius is perhaps as beautiful a 
piece of country as there is in the world. The vegeta- 
tion is rich and varied, gemmed with flowers and plenti- 
fully watered by cool, pure, never-failing streams. To 
one who had been long in prison pent, the journey inland 
was a procession of delights. Monsieur Pitot, who was 
intimate with the country gentlemen, made the stage* 
easy, and several visits were paid by the way. The culti- 
vated French people of the island were all very glad to 
entertain Flinders, of whom they had heard much, 
and who won their sympathy by reason of his wrongs i 
and their affection by his own personality. Charming 
gardens shaded by mango and other fruit trees, cool fish- 
ponds, splashing cascades and tumbling waterfalls, 
coffee and clove plantations, breathing out a spicy 
fragrance, stretches of natural forest — a perpetual 
variety in beauty — gratified the traveller, as he ascended 
the thousand feet above which stretched the plateau 
whereon the home of Madame D'Arifat stood. 


In the garden of the house were two comfortable 
pavilions. One of these was to be occupied by Flinders, 
the other by his servant, Elder, and the lame seaman 
who accompanied him. Madame D'Arifat hospitably 
proposed that he should take his meals with her family 
in the house, and his glad acceptance of the invitation 
commenced a pleasant and profitable friendship with 
people to whom he ever after referred with deep respect. 

A note about the kindness of these gentle friends is 
contained in a letter to his wife:* "Madame and her 
amiable daughters said much to console me, and seemed 
to take it upon themselves to dissipate my chagrin by 
engaging me in innocent amusement and agreeable con- 
versation. I cannot enough be grateful to them for 
such kindness to a stranger, to a foreigner, to an enemy 
of their country, for such they have a right to consider 
me if they will, though I am an enemy to no country in 
fact, but as it opposes the honour, interest, and happiness 
of my own. My employment and inclinations lead to 
the extension of happiness and of science, and not to 
the destruction of mankind." 

The kindly consideration of the inhabitants was un- 
failing. Their houses were ever open to the English 
captain, and they were always glad to have him with 
them, and hear him talk about the wonders of his ad- 
venturous life. He enjoyed his walks, and restored 
health soon stimulated him to renewed mental activity. 

He studied the French language, and learnt to speak 
and write it clearly. He continued to read Latin, and 
also studied Malay, thinking that a knowledge of this 
tongue would be useful to him in case of future work 
upon the northern coasts of Australia and the neigh- 
bouring archipelagoes. He never lost hope of pur- 

Flinders' Papers. 


suing his investigations in the field where he had already 
won so much distinction. To his brother Samuel, in a 
letter of October, 1807, he wrote:* "You know my in- 
tention of completing the examination of Australia as 
soon as the Admiralty will give me a ship. My inten- 
tions are still the same, and the great object of my 
present studies is to render myself more capable of per- 
forming the task with reputation." He cogitated a 
scheme for exploring the interior of Australia "from 
the head of the Gulf of Carpentaria to the head of the 
great gulf on the south coast," i.e., Spencer's Gulf. "In 
case of being again sent to Australia I should much wish 
that this was part of my instructions." Much as he 
longed to see his friends in England, work, always 
work, scope for more and more work, was his domina- 
ting passion. "Should a peace speedily arrive," he told 
Banks (March, 1806), "and their Lordships of the 
Admiralty wish to have the north-west coast of Aus- 
tralia examined immediately, I will be ready to embark 
in any ship provided for the service that they may 
choose to send out. My misfortunes have not abated 
my ardour in the service of science." If there was 
work to do, he would even give up the chance of going 
home before commencing it. "In the event of sending 
out another Investigator immediately after the peace, 
probably Lieutenant Fowler or my brother might be 
chosen as first lieutenant to bring her out to me." He 
spoke of directing researches to the Fiji Islands and the 
South Pacific. Rarely has there been a man so keen 
for the most strenuous service, so unsparing of himself, 
so eager to excel. 

Occasionally in the letters and journals appear lively 
descriptions of life at Wilhelm's Plains. The follow- 
ing is a tinted vignette of this kind: "In the evening 

* Flinders' Papers. 






H > 




s l I 


i |\v \ j •< 

•IV 11 mIh 

> tn* Ul^i i|H 



w ^ 


►J Q 
P4 J ^ 

O ~ V, 

§s | 

o ° ^ 






I walked out to visit my neighbour, whom I had not 
seen for near a week. I met the whole family going 
out in the following order: First, Madame, with her 
youngest daughter, about six years old, in a palankin 
with M. Boistel walking by the side of it. Next, 
Mademoiselle Aimee, about 16, mounted astride upon 
an ass, with her younger sister, about 7, behind her, also 
astride. Third, Mademoiselle her sister, about 15, 
mounted upon M. Boistel's horse, also astride; and two 
or three black servants carrying an umbrella, lanthorn, 
etc., bringing up the rear. The two young ladies had 
stockings on to-day,* and for what I know drawers 
also; they seemed to have occasion for them. Madame 
stopped on seeing me, and I paid my compliments and 
made the usual enquiries. She said they were taking 
a promenade, going to visit a neighbour, and on they set. 
I could perceive that the two young ladies were a little 
ashamed of meeting me, and were cautious to keep their 
coats well down to their ankles, which was no easy thing. 
I stood looking after and admiring the procession some 
time; considering it a fair specimen of the manner in 
which the gentry of the island, who are not very well 
provided with conveyances, make visits in the country. 
I wished much to be able to make a sketch of the pro- 
cession. It would have been as good, with the title of 
'Going to See our Neighbour' under it, as the Vicar of 
Wakefield's family 'Going to Church.' " 

He was much interested in an inspection of the 
Mesnil estate, where Laperouse had resided when as an 
officer of the French navy he had visited Ile-de-France, 
and which in conjunction with another French officer he 
purchased. It was here, though Flinders does not seem 

* On a previous day, mentioned in the journal, they had worn 


to have been aware of the romantic fact, that the illus- 
trious navigator fell in love with Eleanore Broudou. 
whom, despite family opposition, he afterwards 
married.* "I surveyed the scene," wrote Flinders, 
"with mingled sensations of pleasure and melancholy: 
the ruins of his house, the garden he had laid out, 
the still blooming hedgerows of China roses, 
emblems of his reputation, everything was an 
object of interest and curiosity. This spot is 
nearly in the centre of the island, and upon the 
road from Port Louis to Port Bourbon. It was here 
that the man lamented by the good and well-informed 
of all nations, whom science illumined, and humanity, 
joined to an honest ambition, conducted to the haunts 
of remote savages, in this spot he once dwelt, perhaps 
little known to the world, but happy; when he became 
celebrated he had ceased to exist. Monsieur Airolles 
promised me to place three square blocks of stone, one 
upon the other, in the spot where the house of this 
lamented ravigator had stood; and upon the upper- 
most stone facing the road to engrave 'Laperouse.' ' 

Investigations made in later years by the Comite des 
Souvenirs Historiques of Mauritius, show that Airolles 
carried out his promise to Flinders, and erected a cairn 
in the midst of what had been the garden of Laperouse. 
But the stones were afterwards removed by persons who 
had little sentiment for the associations of the place. 
In the year 1897, the Comite des Souvenirs Historiques 
obtained from M. Dauban, then the proprietor of the 
estate, permission to erect a suitable memorial, such as 
Flinders had suggested. This was done. The inscrip- 
tion upon the face of the huge conical rock chosen for 

* The charming love-story of Laperouse has been related in the 
author's Laperouse. (Sydney, 1912). 


the purpose copies the words used by Flinders. It 
reads — 



A achete ce terrain en Avril 1775 et l'a habite. 

Le Capitaine Flinders dit : 

In this spot lie once dwelt, perhaps little known to the 
world, but happy." 

(Comite des Souvenirs Historiques. — 1897.) 

Flinders' pen was very busy during these years. 
Access to his charts and papers, printed volumes and 
log-books (except the third log-book, containing details 
of the Cumberland? s voyage) , having been given to him, 
he wrote up the history of his voyages and adventures. 
By July, 1806, he had completed the manuscript as far 
as the point when he left the Garden prison. An oppor- 
tunity of despatching it to the Admiralty occurred when 
the French privateer La Piemontaise captured the richly 
laden China merchantman Warren Hastings and 
brought her into Port Louis as a prize. Captain Lar- 
kins was released after a short detention, and offered 
to take a packet to the Admiralty. Finished charts 
were also sent; and Sir John Barrow, who wrote the 
powerful Quarterly Review article of 1810, wherein 
Flinders' cause was valiantly championed, had resort to 
this material. A valuable paper by Flinders, upon the 
use of the marine barometer for predicting changes of 
wind at sea, was also the fruit of his enforced leisure. 
It was conveyed to England, read before the Royal 
Society by Sir Joseph Banks, and published in the Trans- 
actions of that learned body in 1806. 


The friendship of able and keen-minded men was 
not lacking during these years. There existed in Ile-de- 
France a Societe d'Emulation, formed to promote the 
study of literary and philosophical subjects, whose mem- 
bers, learning what manner of man Flinders was, 
addressed a memorial to the Institute of France relating 
what had happened to him, and eulogising his courage, 
his high character, his innocence, and the worth of his 
services. They protested that he was a man into whose 
heart there had never entered a single desire, a single 
thought, the execution of which could be harmful to 
any individual, of whatever class or to whatever nation 
he might belong. "Use then, we beg of you," they 
urged, "in favour of Captain Flinders the influence of 
the first scientific body in Europe, the National Insti- 
tute, in order that the error which has led to the 
captivity of this learned navigator may become known; 
you will acquire, in rendering this noble service, a new 
title to the esteem and the honour of all nations, and of 
all friends of humanity." 

The Governor-General of India, Lord Wellesley, 
took a keen interest in Flinders' situation, and in 1805 
requested Decaen's "particular attention" to it, earnestly 
soliciting him to "release Captain Flinders immediately, 
and to allow him either to take his passage to India in 
the Thetis or to return to England in the first neutral 
ship." Rear-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, commander- 
in-chief of the British naval forces in the East Indies, 
tried to effect an exchange by the liberation of a French 
officer of equal rank. But in this direction nothing was 

Under these circumstances, with agreeable society, 
amidst sympathetic friends, in a charming situation, well 
and profitably employed upon his own work, Flinders 
spent over five years of his captivity. He never ceased 
to chafe under the restraint, and to move every avail- 


able influence to secure his liberty, but it cannot be said 
that the chains were oppressively heavy. Decaen 
troubled him very little. Once (in May, 1806) the 
General's anger flamed up, in consequence of a strong 
letter of protest received from Governor King of New 
South Wales. King's affection for Flinders was like 
that of a father for a son, and on receipt of the news 
about the Cumberland his indignation poured itself out 
in this letter to Decaen, with which he enclosed a copy 
of Flinders' letter to him. It happened that, at the 
time of the arrival of the letter in Ile-de-France, Flin- 
ders was on a visit to Port Louis, where he had been 
permitted to come for a few days. The result of 
King's intervention was that Decaen ordered him to 
return to Wilhelm's Plains, and refused the application 
he had made to be allowed to visit two friends who 
were living on the north-east side of the island. 

John Elder, Flinders' servant, remained with him 
until June, 1806. He might have left when there was 
a general exchange of prisoners in August, 1805, and 
another opportunity of quitting the island was presented 
in April, 1806, when the lame seaman departed on an 
American ship bound for Boston. But Elder was 
deeply attached to his master, and would have remained 
till the end had not his mind become somewhat un- 
hinged by frequent disappointments and by his despair 
of ever securing liberation. When his companion, the 
lame seaman, went away, Elder developed a form of 
melancholy, with hallucinations, and appeared to be 
wasting away from loss of sleep and appetite. Per- 
mission for him to depart was therefore obtained, and 
from July, 1806, Flinders was the only remaining mem- 
ber of the Cumberland's company. 

Throughout the period of detention Flinders was 
placed on half-pay by the Admiralty. It cannot be said 
that he was treated with generosity by the Government 


of his own country at any time. He was not a prisoner 
of war in the strict sense, and the rigid application 
of the ordinary regulations of service in his peculiar 
case seems to have been a rather stiff measure. Besides, 
the Admiralty had evidence from time to time, in the 
receipt of new charts and manuscripts, that Flinders was 
industriously applying himself to the duties of the ser- 
vice on which he had been despatched. But there was 
the regulation, and someone in authority ruled that it 
had to apply in this most unusual instance. There is 
some pathos in a letter written by Mrs. Flinders to a 
friend in England (August, 1806) : "The Navy Board 
have thought proper to curtail my husband's pay, so it 
behoves me to be as careful as I can; and I mean to be 
very economical, being determined to do with as little 
as possible, that he may not deem me an extravagant 


■■:■■■' 1 


1 \ 1 


* . '(ft 

(From portrait drawn by Chazal at Ile-de-France.) 

Chapter XXV. 

The several representations concerning the case of Flin- 
ders that were made in France, the attention drawn to 
it in English newspapers, and the lively interest of 
learned men of both nations, produced a moving effect 
upon Napoleon's Government. Distinguished French- 
men did not hesitate to speak plainly. Fleurieu, whose 
voice was attentively heard on all matters touching 
geography and discovery, declared publicly that u the 
indignities imposed upon Captain Flinders were without 
example in the nautical history of civilised nations." 
Malte-Brun, a savant of the first rank, expressed him- 
self so boldly as to incur the displeasure of the authori- 
ties. Bougainville, himself a famous navigator, made 
personal appeals to the Government. Sir Joseph Banks, 
whose friendly relations with French men of science 
were not broken by the war, used all the influence he 
could command. He had already, "from the gracious 
condescension of the Emperor," obtained the release 
of five persons who had been imprisoned in France,* and 
had no doubt that if he could get Napoleon's ear he 
could bring about the liberation of his protege. 

At last, in March, 1806, the affair came before the 
Council of State in Paris, mainly through the instru- 
mentality of Bougainville. Banks wrote to Mrs. Flin- 
ders :t "After many refusals on the part of Bonaparte 
to applications made to him from different quarters, he 

* Banks to Flinders, Historical Records, V., 646. 
t Flinders' Papers. 

aa 367 


at last consented to order Captain Flinders' case to be 
laid before the Council of State." 

On the first of March an order was directed to be 
sent to Decaen, approving his previous conduct, but in- 
forming him that, moved "by a sentiment of generosity, 
the Government accord to Captain Flinders his liberty 
and the restoration of his ship." Accompanying the 
despatch was an extract from the minutes of the Council 
of State, dated March 1st, 1806, recording that: "The 
Council of State, which, after the return of His 
Majesty the Emperor and King, has considered the re- 
port of its Marine section on that of the Minister 
of Marine and the Colonies concerning the detention 
of the English schooner Cumberland and of Captain 
Flinders at Ile-de-France (see the documents appended 
to the report), is of opinion that the Captain- 
General of Ile-de-France had sufficient reason for 
detaining there Captain Flinders and his schooner; 
but by reason of the interest that the mis- 
fortunes of Captain Flinders has inspired, he seems to 
deserve that His Majesty should authorise the Minister 
of Marine and the Colonies to restore to him his liberty 
and his ship." This document was endorsed: 
"Approuve au Palais des Tuileries, le onze Mars, 1806. 

The terms of the despatch with which the order was 
transmitted contained a remarkable statement. Decres 
informed Decaen that he, as Minister, had on the 30th 
July, 1804 — nearly one year and nine months before 
the order of release — brought Flinders' case under 
the notice of the Council of State. But nothing was 
done: the Emperor had to be consulted, and at that 
date Napoleon was not accessible. He was superin- 
tending the army encamped at Boulogne, preparing for 
that projected descent upon England which even his 
magnificent audacity never dared to make. He did 


not return to St. Cloud, within hail of Paris, till October 
12th.* Then the officials surrounding him were kept 
busy with preparations for crowning himself and the 
Empress Josephine, a ceremony performed by Pope 
Pius VII., at Notre Dame, on December 2nd. The 
consequence was that this piece of business about an un- 
fortunate English captain in Ile-de-France — like nearly 
all other business concerned with the same colony at the 
time — got covered up beneath a mass of more urgent 
affairs, and remained in abeyance until the agitation 
stimulated by Banks, Fleurieu, Bougainville, Malte- 
Brun and others forced the case under the attention of 
the Emperor and his ministers. 

Even then the despatch did not reach Ile-de-France 
till July, 1807, sixteen months after the date upon it; 
and it was then transmitted, not by a French ship, but 
by an English frigate, the Greyhound, under a flag of 
truce. The reason for that was unfortunate for Flin- 
ders as an individual, but entirely due to the efficiency 
of the navy of which he was an officer. In 1805 the 
British fleet had demolished the French at Trafalgar, 
and from that time forward until the end of the war, 
Great Britain was mistress of the ocean in full potency. 
Her frigates patrolled the highways of the sea with a 
vigilance that never relaxed. In January, 1806, she 
took possession of the Cape of Good Hope for the 
second time, and has held it ever since. The conse- 
quences to Decaen and his garrison were very serious. 
With the British in force at the Cape, how could 
supplies, reinforcements and despatches get through to 
him in Ile-de-France? He saw the danger clearly, 
but was powerless to avert it. Of this particular des- 
patch four copies were sent from France on as many 

* The movements of Napoleon day by day can be followed in 
Schuerman's Itineraire General de Napoleon. 


ships. One copy was borne by a French vessel which 
was promptly captured by the British; and on its con- 
tents becoming known the Admiralty sent it out to 
Admiral Pellew, in order that he might send a ship 
under a flag of truce to take it to Decaen. The Secre- 
tary to the Admiralty, Marsden, wrote to Pellew 
(December, 1806) that the despatch "has already been 
transmitted to the Isle of France in triplicate, but as it 
may be hoped that the vessels have been all captured 
you had better take an opportunity of sending this 
copy by a flag of truce, provided you have not heard in 
the meantime of Flinders being at liberty." As a fact, 
one other copy did get through, on a French vessel. 

Pellew lost no time in informing Flinders of the 
news, and the captive wrote to Decaen in the following 

"General, "** 24, 1807. 

"By letters from Rear-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, 
transmitted to me yesterday by Colonel Monistrol, I am 
informed that orders relating to me have at length 
arrived from His Excellency the Marine Minister of 
France, which orders are supposed to authorize my 
being set at liberty. 

"Your Excellency will doubtless be able to figure 
to yourself the sensations such a communication must 
have excited in me, after a detention of three years and 
a half, and my anxiety to have such agreeable intelli- 
gence confirmed by some information of the steps it is 
in Your Excellency's contemplation to take in conse- 
quence. If these letters have flattered me in vain with 
the hopes of returning to my country and my family, I 
beg of you, General, to inform me; if they are correct, 

* Decaen Papers. 


you will complete my happiness by confirming their con- 
tents. The state of incertitude in which I have so long 
remained will, I trust, be admitted as a sufficient excuse 
for my anxiety to be delivered from it. 

"I have the honour to be, Your Excellency's most 
obedient humble servant, 

"Mattw. Flinders. 

"His Excellency the Captain-General Decaen." 

In reply Decaen transmitted to Flinders a copy of 
the despatch of the Minister of Marine, and informed 
him through Colonel Monistrol "that, so soon as cir- 
cumstances will permit, you will fully enjoy the favour 
which has been granted you by His Majesty the 
Emperor and King." 

But now, having at length received orders, counter- 
signed by Napoleon himself, that Flinders should be 
liberated, Decaen came to a decision that on the face of 
it seems extremely perplexing. We have seen that in 
August, 1805, Flinders, well informed by persons who 
had conversed with Decaen, believed that the General 
"would be very glad to get handsomely clear of me," 
and that in November of the same year he made the as- 
sertion that Decaen "would have gladly suffered me to 
depart long since" but for the reference of the case to 
Paris. We have direct evidence to the same effect in a 
letter from Colonel Monistrol regarding Lord Welles- 
ley's application for Flinders' release.* The Colonel 
desired "with all my heart" that the request could be 
acceded to, but the Captain-General could not comply 
until he had received a response to his despatch. Yet, 
when the response was received, and Flinders might 
have been liberated with the full approbation of the 

* Historical Records, V., 651. 


French Government, Decaen replied to the Minister's 
despatch in the following terms (August 20th, 1807) : 

"I have the honour to inform Your Excellency that 
by the English frigate Greyhound, which arrived here 
on July 21st under a flag of truce, in the hope of gather- 
ing information concerning His British Majesty's ships 
Blenheim and Java, I have received the fourth copy of 
Your Excellency's despatch of March 21st, 1806, no. 8, 
relative to Captain Flinders. Having thought that the 
favourable decision that it contains regarding that 
officer had been determined at a time when the possi- 
bility of some renewal of friendliness with England was 
perceived, I did not consider that the present moment 
was favourable for putting into operation that act of 
indulgence on the part of His Majesty. I have since 
received the second copy of the same despatch; but, the 
circumstances having become still more difficult, and 
that officer appearing to me to be always dangerous, I 
await a more propitious time for putting into execution 
the intentions of His Majesty. My zeal for his service 
has induced me to suspend the operations of his com- 
mand. I trust, Monsieur, that that measure of pru- 
dence will obtain your Excellency's approbation. I 
have the honour to be, etc., etc., etc., Decaen."* 

It will be observed that in this despatch Decaen des- 
cribes the circumstances of the colony he governed as 
having become "more difficult," and Flinders as appear- 
ing to him to be "always dangerous." We must, then, 
examine the circumstances to ascertain why they had 
become so difficult, and why he considered that it would 
now be dangerous to let Flinders go. 

It is easy enough to attribute the General's refusal 
to obstinacy or malignity. But his anger had cooled 

* This despatch was originally published by M. Albert Pitot, in 
his Esquisscs Historiques de l'Ile-de-France. (Port Louis, 1899). 


down by 1807; his prisoner was a charge on the estab- 
lishment to the extent of 5,400 francs a year, and 
Decaen was a thrifty administrator; why, then, should 
he apparently have hardened his heart to the extent of 
disobeying the Emperor's command? The explanation 
is not to be found in his temper, but in the military 
situation of Ile-de-France, and his belief that Flinders 
was accurately informed about it; as was, indeed, the 

At this time Decaen was holding Ile-de-France by 
a policy fairly describable as one of "bluff." The 
British could have taken it by throwing upon it a com- 
paratively small force, had they known how weak its 
defences were. But they did not know; and Decaen, 
whose duty it was to defend the place to the utmost, 
did not intend that they should if he could prevent in- 
formation reaching them. After the crushing of 
French naval power at Trafalgar and the British occu- 
pation of the Cape, Decaen's position became untenable, 
though a capitulation was not forced upon him till four 
years later. He constantly demanded reinforcements 
and money, which never came to hand. The military 
and financial resources of France were being strained to 
prosecute Napoleon's wars in Europe. There were 
neither men nor funds to spare for the colony in the 
Indian Ocean. Decaen felt that his position was com- 
promised.* He addressed the Emperor personally 
"with all the sadness of a wounded soul," but nothing 
was done for Ile-de-France. There was not enough 
money to repair public buildings and quays, which fell 
into ruins. There was no timber, no sail-cloth to re-fit 
ships. Even nails were lacking. A little later ( 1809) 
he complained in despatches of the shortness of flour 

* "II sentait sa position compromise." Prentout, p. 521 ; who 
gives an excellent account of the situation. 


and food. There was little revenue, no credit. Now 
that the British had asserted their strength, and held the 
Cape, prizes were few. Above all he represented "the 
urgent need for soldiers." He felt himself abandoned. 
But still, with a resolute tenacity that one cannot but 
admire, he hung on to his post, and maintained a bold 
front to the enemy. 

Did Flinders know of this state of things? Un- 
questionably he did; and Decaen knew that he knew. 
He could have informed the British Government, had 
he chosen to violate his parole; but he was in all things 
a scrupulously honourable man, and, as he said, u an 
absolute silence was maintained in my letters." He 
was constantly hoping that an attack would be made 
upon the island, and "if attacked with judgment it 
appeared to me that a moderate force would carry it."* 
But all this while the British believed that Ile-de-France 
was strong, and that a successful assault upon it would 
require a larger force than they could spare at the time. 
Even after Flinders had returned to England, when he 
was asked at the Admiralty whether he thought that a 
contemplated attack would succeed, his confident 
assurance that it would was received with doubt. 
Decaen's "bluff" was superb. 

On one point, if we may believe St. Elme le Due, 
Decaen did Flinders a grave injustice. It was believed, 
says that writer's manuscript, that Flinders had several 
times managed to go out at night, that he had made 
soundings along the coast, and had transmitted informa- 
tion to Bengal which was of use when ultimately the 
colony was taken by the English. For that charge 
there is not a shadow of warrant. There is not the 
faintest ground for supposing that he did not observe 
his parole with the utmost strictness. Had he supplied 

* Voyage to Terra Australis, II., 419. 


information, Ile-de-France would have passed under 
British rule long before 1810.* 

A few passages written for inclusion in the Voyage 
to Terra Australis, but for some reason omitted, may 
be quoted to show how rigorously visiting ships were 
treated lest information should leak out.f 

"It may not be amiss to mention the rules which a 
ship is obliged to observe on arriving at Port North- 
West, since it will of itself give some idea of the nature 
of the Government. The ship is boarded by a pilot one 
or two miles from the entrance to the port, who informs 
the commander that no person must go on shore, or any 
one be suffered to come on board until the ship has been 
visited by the officer of health, who comes soon after 
the ship has arrived at anchor in the mouth of the port, 
accompanied with an officer from the captain of the 
port, and, if it is a foreign ship, by an interpreter. If 
the health of the crew presents no objection, and after 
answering the questions put to him concerning the object 
of his coming to the island, the commander goes on 
shore in the French boat, and is desired to take with him 
all papers containing political information, and all 
letters, whether public or private, that are on board the 
vessel; and although there should be several parcels of 
newspapers of the same date, they must all go. On 
arriving at the Government House, to which he is 
accompanied by the officer and interpreter, and fre- 
quently by a guard, he sooner or later sees the Governor, 

* The belief that Flinders took soundings appears to have been 
common among the French inhabitants of Port Louis. In the Pro- 
ceedings of the South Australian Branch of the Royal Geographical 
Society, 1912-13, p. 71, is printed a brief account of the detention of 
Flinders, by a contemporary, D'Epinay, a lawyer of the town. Here 
it is stated : "It is found out that at night he takes soundings off the 
coast and has forwarded his notes to India." Those who gave 
credence to this wild story apparently never reflected that Flinders 
had no kind of opportunity for taking soundings. 

f MS., Mitchell Library. 


or one of his aides-de-camp, who questions him upon his 
voyage, upon political intelligence, the vessels he has 
met at sea, his intentions in touching at the island, etc. ; 
after which he is desired to leave his letters, packets, 
and newspapers, no matter to whom they are addressed. 
If he refuse this, or to give all the information he 
knows, however detrimental it may be to his own affairs, 
or appears to equivocate, if he escapes being imprisoned 
in the town he is sent back to his ship under a guard, 
and forbidden all communication with the shore. If 
he gives satisfaction, he is conducted from the General 
to the Prefect, to answer his questions, and if he satisfies 
him also, is then left at liberty to go to his consul and 
transact his business. The letters and packets left with 
the General, if not addressed to persons obnoxious to 
the Government, are sent unopened, according to their 
direction. I will not venture to say that the others are 
opened and afterwards destroyed, but it is much sus- 
pected. If the newspapers contain no intelligence but 
what is permitted to be known, they are also sent to 
their address. The others are retained; and for this 
reason it is that all the copies of the same paper are de- 
manded, for the intention is not merely to gain intelli- 
gence, but to prevent what is disagreeable from being 

Decaen's conduct in refusing to liberate Flinders 
when the order reached him need not be excused, but it 
should be understood. To impute sheer malignity to him 
does not help us much, nor does it supply a sufficient 
motive. What we know of his state of mind, as well 
as what we know of the financial position of the colony, 
induce the belief that he would have been quite glad 
to get rid of Flinders in 1807, had not other and 
stronger influences intervened. But he was a soldier, 
placed in an exceedingly precarious situation, which he 
could only maintain by determining not to lose a single 


chance. War is an affliction that scourges a larger 
number of those who do not fight than of those who do ; 
and Flinders, with all his innocence, was one of its 
victims. He was thought to know too much. That 
was why he was "dangerous." A learned French his- 
torian* stigmatises Decaen's conduct as "maladroit and 
brutal, but not dishonest." Dishonest he never was; 
as to the other terms we need not dispute so long as we 
understand the peculiar twist of circumstances that in- 
tensified the maladroitness and brutality that marked 
the man, and without which, indeed, he would not per- 
haps have been the dogged, tough, hard-fighting, reso- 
lute soldier that he was. 

Flinders could have escaped from Ile-de-France on 
several occasions, had he chosen to avail himself of 
opportunities. He did not, for two reasons, both in 
the highest degree honourable to him. The first was 
that he had given his parole, and would not break it; 
the second that escape would have meant sacrificing 
some of his precious papers. In May, 1806, an Ameri- 
can captain rejoicing in the name of Gamaliel Matthew 
Ward called at Port Louis, and hearing of Flinders' 
case, actually made arrangements for removing him. 
It was Flinders himself who prevented the daring 
skipper from carrying out his plan. "The dread of 
dishonouring my parole," he wrote, "made me contem- 
plate this plan with a fearful eye."f In December of 
the same year he wrote to John Aken: "Since I find so 
much time elapse, and no attention paid to my situation 
by the French Government, I have been very heartily 
sorry for having given my parole, as I could otherwise 
have made my escape long ago." Again, he wrote to 
his wife : "Great risks must be run and sacrifices made, 

* Prentout, p. 661. 
f Flinders' Papers. 


but my honour shall remain unstained. No captain in 
His Majesty's Navy shall have cause to blush in calling 
me a brother officer." 

As time went on, and release was not granted, he 
several times thought of surrendering his parole, which 
would have involved giving up the pleasant life at Wil- 
helm's Plains, and being again confined in Port Louis. 
But escape would have meant the loss of many of his 
papers, the authentic records of his discoveries; and he 
could not bring himself to face that. 

Consequently the captivity dragged itself wearily 
out for three years after the order of release was 
received. The victim chafed, protested, left no stone 
unturned, but Decaen was not to be moved. Happily 
depression did not drag illness in its miserable train. 
"My health sustains itself tolerably well in the midst of 
all my disappointments," he was able to write to Banks 
in 1809. 

Chapter XXVI. 

From June, 1809, the British squadron in the Indian 
Ocean commenced to blockade Ile-de-France.* Decaen's 
fear of Flinders' knowledge is revealed in the fact that 
he ordered him not for the future to go beyond the 
lands attached to Madame D'Arifat's habitation. 
Flinders wrote complying, and henceforth declined invi- 
tations beyond the immediate neighbourhood of the 
plantation. He amused himself by teaching mathe- 
matics and the principles of navigation to the two 
younger sons of the family, and by the study of French 

After October the blockade increased in strictness, 
under Commodore Rowley. Decaen's situation was 
growing desperate. Fortunately for him, the French 
squadron brought in three prizes in January, 1810, 
slipping past Rowley's blockade, much to that enter- 
prising officer's annoyance. The situation was 
temporarily relieved, but the assistance thus afforded 
was no better than a plaster on a large wound. Here 
again we find Flinders accurately and fully informed: 
Decaen did not underrate his "dangerous" potentialities. 
"The ordinary sources of revenue and emolument were 
nearly dried up, and to have recourse to the merchants 
for a. loan was impossible, the former bills upon the 
French treasury, drawn it was said for three millions 
of livres, remaining in great part unpaid; and to such 
distress was the Captain-General reduced for ways and 
means that he had submitted to ask a voluntary contri- 

Flinders to Banks, Historical Records, VII., 202. 


bution in money, wheat, maize, or any kind of produce 
from the half-ruined colonists. It was even said to 
have been promised that, if pecuniary succour did not 
arrive in six months, the Captain-General would retire 
and leave the inhabitants to govern themselves." 

Decaen, in fact, saw clearly that the game was up. 
His threat to retire in six months did not mean that he 
would not have given the British a fight before he 
lowered the tricolour. He was not the man to sur- 
render quite tamely; but he knew that he could no 
longer hold out for more than a measurable period, the 
length of which would depend upon the enemy's initia- 

There was, therefore, no longer any purpose in 
prolonging the captivity of the prisoner who was feared 
on account of his knowledge of the situation; and 
Decaen availed himself of the first opportunity pre- 
sented in 1810 to grant Flinders his longed-for release. 
In March, Mr. Hugh Hope was sent to Ile-de-France 
by Lord Minto (who had become Governor-General 
of India in 1807) to negotiate for the exchange of 
prisoners. This gentleman had done his best to secure 
Flinders' release on a former occasion, and had been 
refused. But now Decaen realised that the end was 
drawing near, and there was no sound military purpose 
to serve in keeping the prisoner any longer. It is quite 
probable that he would have been glad if information 
had been conveyed to the British which would expedite 
the inevitable fight and the consequent fall of French 
power in Mauritius. 

On March 15th Flinders received a letter from Mr. 
Hope informing him that the Governor had consented 
to his liberation. A fortnight later came official con- 
firmation of the news in a letter from Colonel Monis- 
trol, who assured him of the pleasure he had in making 
the announcement. His joy was great. At once he 


visited his French friends in the neighbourhood to give 
them the news and bid them farewell; next day he took 
an affectionate leave of the kind family who had been 
his hosts for four years and a half; and as soon as 
possible he departed for Port. Louis, where he stayed 
with his friend Pitot until he went aboard the cartel. 
At the end of the month a dinner was given in his 
honour by the president of the Societe D'Emulation, to 
which a large number of English men and women were 
invited. When Flinders arrived in Ile-de-France, more 
than six years before, he could speak no French and 
could only decipher a letter in that language with the 
aid of a dictionary; but now, when he found himself 
again in the company of his own countrymen, he ex- 
perienced a difficulty in speaking English! 

On June 13th, Flinders' sword was restored to him. 
He was required to sign a parole, wherein he pledged 
himself not to act in any service which might be con- 
sidered as directly or indirectly hostile to France or her 
allies during the present war. On the same day the 
cartel Harriet sailed for Bengal. Flinders was free: 
"after a captivity of six years five months and twenty- 
seven days I at length had the inexpressible pleasure of 
being out of the reach of General Decaen." 

Rowley's blockading squadron was cruising outside 
the port, and the Harriet communicated with the com- 
modore, it was ascertained that the sloop Otter was 
running down to the Cape with despatches on the 
following day, and Flinders had no difficulty in securing 
a passage in her. After dining with Rowley he was 
transferred to the Otter. He was delayed for six 
weeks at the Cape, but in August embarked in the 
Olympia, and arrived, in England on the 23rd of 
October, after an absence of nine years and three 

News of his release had preceded him, and his 


wife had come up from Lincolnshire to meet him. 
He speaks in a letter to a friend of the meeting with the 
woman whom he had left a bride so many years before :* 
"I had the extreme good fortune to find Mrs. Flinders 
in London, which I owe to the intelligence of my 
liberty having preceded my arrival. I need not des- 
cribe to you our meeting after an absence of nearly ten 
years. Suffice it to say I have been gaining flesh ever 
since." John Franklin, then a midshipman on the 
Bedford, had come up to London to welcome his old 
commander, and, much to his disturbance, witnessed 
the meeting of Flinders and his wife, as we find from 
a letter written by him: "Some apology would be 
necessary for the abrupt manner in which I left you, 
except in the peculiar circumstances wherein my de- 
parture was taken. I felt so sensibly the affecting scene 
of your meeting Mrs. Flinders that I would not have 
remained any longer in the room under any considera- 

The capture of Ile-de-France by the British, when 
ultimately an attack was made (on 3rd December. 
1810), gave peculiar pleasure to naval officers and 
Anglo-Indians. "It is incredible," Mr. Hope wrote 
to Flinders, "the satisfaction which the capture of that 
island has diffused all over India, and everyone is now 
surprised that an enterprise of such importance should 
never have been attempted before." When the change 
of rulers took place, some of the French inhabitants 
objected to take the oath of allegiance to the British 
Crown, and a letter on the subject was sent to Napoleon. 
His comment was pithy: "I should like to see anybody 
refuse me the oath of allegiance in any country I con- 

It will be convenient to deal at this point with the 
* Flinders' Papers. 


( />' v permission of Professor Flinders Petrie.) 


oft-repeated charge, to which reference has been made 
previously, that charts were taken from Flinders during 
his imprisonment, and were used in the preparation or 
the Atlas to Peron and Freycinets' Voyage de Decou- 
vertes aux Terres Australes. ■ 

The truth is that no charts were at any time taken 
from the trunks wherein they were deposited in 1803, 
except by Flinders himself, nor was a single one of his 
charts ever seen by any French officer unless he himself 
showed it. He never made any such charge of dis- 
honesty against his enemy, Decaen, or against the 
General's countrymen. He had, as will be seen, a 
cause of grievance against Freycinet, who was respon- 
sible for the French charts, and gave voice to it; but 
plagiarism was neither alleged nor suspected by him. 

On each occasion when Flinders applied to Decaen 
to be supplied with papers from the trunks, he gave a 
formal receipt for them. The first occasion when 
papers were removed was on December 18th, 1803, 
when Flinders took from one of his trunks his Cumber- 
land log-book, in order that Decaen might ascertain 
from it his reasons for calling at Ile-de-France. It was 
never restored to him. Mr. Hope made application 
for it in 1810, when he was set free, but Decaen did 
not give it up; and in 1813 Decres was still demanding it 
unavailingly. This book and the box of despatches 
were the only papers of Flinders that Decaen ever saw. 
When it was handed over, all other books and papers 
were replaced in the trunk, "and sealed as before." 
The second occasion was on December 27th, 1803, 
when the trunk containing printed books was restored 
to Flinders at his request in order that he might employ 
himself in confinement at the Port Louis tavern. The 
third occasion was on December 29th, when he was 
conducted to Government House, and was allowed to 
take out of the sealed trunk there his private letters and 



journals, two log-books, and other memoranda neces- 
sary to enable him to construct a chart of the Gulf of 
Carpentaria. All other papers were "locked up in the 
trunk and sealed as before." The fourth occasion was 
in July, 1804, when Flinders was allowed to take out 
of the same trunk a quantity of other books, papers and 
charts, which he required for the pursuit of his work. 
For these also a receipt was duly given. In that in- 
stance Flinders was especially vigilant. He had received 
a private warning that some of his charts had been 
copied, but when the seals were broken and he examined 
the contents he was satisfied that this was not true. He 
asked Colonel Monistrol, an honourable gentleman who 
who was always of friendly disposition, whether the 
papers had been disturbed, and "he answered by an 
unqualified negative." The fifth occasion was in 
August, 1807, when all the remaining papers, except the 
log-book and the despatches, were restored to him. He 
then gave the following receipt:* 

"Received from Colonel Monistrol, chef d' etat- 
major general of the Isle of France, one trunk con- 
taining the remainder of the books, papers, etc., which 
were taken from me in Port North-West on December 
16th, 1803, and December 20th of the same year, 
whether relating to my voyage of discovery or other- 
wise; which books and papers, with those received by 
me at two different times in 1804, make up the whole 
that were so taken; with the following exceptions: — 
1st, Various letters and papers, either wholly or in part 
destroyed by rats, of which the remains are in the trunk. 
2nd, The third volume of my rough log-books, contain- 
ing the journal of my transactions and observations on 
board the Investigator, the Porpoise, the Hope cutter, 
and the Cumberland schooner, from some time in June, 

* Decaen Papers. 


1803, to December 16th, 1803, of which I have no 
duplicate. 3rd, Two boxes of despatches; the one 
from his Excellency Governor King of New South 
Wales, addressed to His Majesty's principal Secretary 
of State for the Colonies.; the other from Colonel 
Paterson, Lieutenant-Governor at Port Jackson, the 
address of which I do not remember. In truth of 
which I hereunto sign my name at Port Napoleon, Isle 
of France this 24th day of August, 1807. 
"Mattw. Flinders, 

"Late commander of H.M. Sloop the 
Investigator, employed on discoveries 
to the South Seas, with a French 

The papers which the rats had destroyed were not 
described; but there is a letter of Flinders to the 
Admiralty, written after his return to England 
(November 8th, 1810), which informs us what they 
were.* In this letter he explained that, when the trunk 
containing the papers was restored, "I found the rats 
had gotten into the trunk and made nests of some of 
them. I transmitted the whole from the Isle of France 
in the state they then were, and now find that some of 
the papers necessary to the passing of my accounts as 
commander and purser of His Majesty's sloop Investi- 
gator are wanting. I have therefore to request you 
will lay my case before their Lordships and issue an 
order to dispense with the papers which from the above 
circumstances it is impossible for me to produce." It 
is apparent, therefore, that none of the navigation 
papers or charts were destroyed. Had any been ab- 
stracted Flinders, who was a punctilously exact man, 
would have missed them. His intense feeling of re- 
sentment against Decaen would have caused him to 

* Flinders' Papers. 


call attention to the fact if any papers whatever had 
been disturbed. 

The Quarterly Review pointed out the circumstance 
that the French charts were "very like" those of Flin- 
ders, giving sinister emphasis to the words in italics. 
They were very like in so far as they were good. It is 
evident that if two navigators sail along the same piece 
of coast, and each constructs a chart of it, those charts 
will be "very like" each other to exactly the degree in 
which they accurately represent the coast charted. 
Freycinet, who did much of the hydrographical work 
on Baudin's expedition, was an eminently competent 
officer. Wherever we find him in charge of a section, 
the work is well done. His Atlas contained some ex- 
tremely beautiful work. There is no reason whatever 
for suggesting that it was not his own work. He 
certainly saw no chart of Flinders, except the one 
shown to him at Port Jackson, until the Atlas to the 
Voyage to Terra Auslralis was published. 

Moreover, the reports and material prepared by 
Baudin's cartographers, upon which Freycinet worked, 
are in existence. The reports* to the commander give 
detailed descriptions of sections of the Australian coast 
traversed and charted, and show conclusively that some 
parts were examined with thoroughness. For regions 
in which Baudin's expeditions sailed, Freycinet had no 
need to resort to Flinders' material. He had enough 
of his own. The papers of Flinders which Freycinet 
might have wished to see were those relating to the 
Gulf of Carpentaria, Torres Strait, and the Queensland 
coast, which Baudin's vessels did not explore. But the 
French maps contain no new features in respect to these 

* I have read the whole of these reports from copies of the 
originals in the Depot de la Marine, Service Hydrographique, Paris, 
but have not thought it necessary to make further use of them in 
this book. 


parts. They present no evidence that Freycinet was 
acquainted with the discoveries made there by Flinders. 

The accusation of plagiarism arose partly from the 
intense animosity felt against Frenchmen by English 
writers in a period of fierce national hatred; partly from 
natural resentment of the treatment accorded to Flin- 
ders; partly from the circumstance that, while he was 
held in captivity, French maps were published which 
appeared to claim credit for discoveries made by him: 
and partly from a misunderstanding of a charge very 
boldly launched by an eminent French geographer. 
Malte-Brun, in his Annales des Voyages for 1814 (Vol. 
XXIII. , p. 268) made an attack upon the French 
Atlas. He detested the Napoleonic regime, and pub- 
lished his observations while Napoleon was in exile at 
Elba. He pointed out the wrong done to Flinders in 
labelling the southern coast of Australia * 'Terre 
Napoleon," and in giving French names to geographical 
features of which Flinders, not Baudin, was the dis- 
coverer. He continued: "the motive for that species 
of national plagiarism* is evident. The Government 
wished to create for itself a title for the occupation of 
that part of New Holland." Malte-Brun should have 
known Napoleon better than that. When he wanted 
territory, and was strong enough to take it, he did not 
"create titles." He took: his title was the sword. 

But the point of importance is that Malte-Brun die! 
not allege "plagiarism" against the authors of the 
French maps. His charge was made against the 
Government. It was not that Freycinet had plagiar- 
ised Flinders' charts, but that the Government had 
plagiarised his discoveries by, as Malte-Brun thought, 
ordering French names to be strewn along the Terre 
Napoleon coasts. In a later issue of the Annales des 

* "Le motif de cette espece de plagiat national." 


Voyages* Malte-Brun testified to having seen Freycinet 
working at the material upon which his charts were 
founded. But his former use of the word "plagiat" 
had created a general impression that Flinders' charts 
had been dishonestly taken from him in Mauritius, and 
used by those responsible for the French maps ; a charge 
which Malte-Brun never meant to make, and which, 
though still very commonly stated and believed, is 
wholly untrue. 

The really deplorable feature of the affair is that 
Peron and Freycinet, in their published book and atlas, 
gave no credit to Flinders for discoveries which they 
knew perfectly that he had made. They knew where 
he was while they were working up their material. It 
does not appear that either of them ever moved in the 
slightest degree to try to secure his liberation. Peron 
died in December, 1810. Malte-Brun, who saw him 
frequently after the return of Baudin's expedition, says 
that in conversation on the discoveries of Flinders, 
Peron "always appeared to me to be agitated by a secret 
sorrow, and has given me to understand that he re- 
gretted not being at liberty to say in that regard all that 
he knew." Flinders also believed Peron to be a worthy 
man who acted as he did "from overruling authority." 
Those who have read the evidence printed in this book, 
exhibiting the detestable conduct of both Peron and 
Freycinet in repaying indulgence and hospitality by 
base espionage, will hardly be precipitate in crediting 
either of them with immaculate motives. There is no 
evidence that authority was exercised to induce them to 
name the southern coasts Terre Napoleon, or to give 
the name Golfe Bonaparte to the Spencer's Gulf of 
Flinders, that of Golfe Josephine to his St. Vincent's 
Gulf, that of He Decres to his Kangaroo Island, that 

* Vol. XXIV., 273. 


of Detroit de Lacepede to his Investigator Strait, and 
so forth. They knew that Flinders had made these dis- 
coveries betore their own ships appeared in the same 
waters; they knew that only the fact of his imprison- 
ment prevented his charts from being published before 
theirs. The names with which they adorned their maps 
were a piece of courtiership and a means of currying 
favour with the great and powerful, just as their espion- 
age, and their supply of illicitly-obtained and flavoured 
information to Decaen in Mauritius, were essays to ad- 
vance their own interests by unworthy services. 

Freycinet's anxiety to get his maps out before Flin- 
ders had time to publish is curiously exhibited in a letter 
from him to the Minister of Marine (August 29th, 
1811). Flinders was then back in England, hard at 
work upon his charts. A volume of text, and one thin 
book of plates, containing only two maps, had been 
published at Paris in 1807. Then delay occurred, and 
in 1811 the engravers, not having been paid for their 
work, refused to continue. Freycinet appealed to the 
Minister In these terms:* "Very powerful reasons, 
Monsieur, appear to demand that the atlas should be 
published with very little delay, and even before the text 
which is to accompany it. Independently of the advan- 
tages to me personally as author, of which I shall not 
speak, the reputation of the expedition ordered by His 
Majesty appears to me to be strongly involved. I have 
the honour to remind your Excellency that Captain 
Flinders was sent on discovery to Terra Australis a 
short while after the French Government had des- 
patched an expedition having the same object. The 
rival expeditions carried out their work in the same field, 
but the French had the good fortune to be the first to 
return to Europe. Now that Flinders is again in Eng- 

* MSS., Archives Nationales, Marine, BB4, 996. 


land, and is occupied with the publication of the 
numerous results of his voyage, the English Govern- 
ment, jealous on account of the rivalry between the two 
expeditions, will do all it can for its own. The con- 
jectures I have formed acquire a new force by the recent 
announcement made by the newspapers, that Captain 
Flinders' voyages in the South Seas are to be published 
by command of the Lords of the Admiralty. If the 
English publish before the French the records of dis- 
coveries made in New Holland, they will, by the fact 
of that priority of publication, take from us the glory 
which we have a right to claim. The reputation of our 
expedition depends wholly upon the success of our 
geographical work, and the more nearly our operations 
and those of the English approach perfection, and the 
more nearly our charts resemble each other, the more 
likelihood there is of our being accused of plagiarism, 
or at all events of giving rise to the thought that the 
English charts were necessary to aid us in constructing 
ours; because there will be no other apparent motive 
for the delay of our publication." 

Here, it will be seen, Freycinet anticipated the 
charge of plagiarism, but thought it would spring from 
the prior publication of Flinders' charts. He had no 
suspicion at this time that the accusation would be made 
that he used charts improperly taken from Flinders 
when he was under the thumb of Decaen; and when this 
unjust impeachment was launched a few years later he 
repudiated it with strong indignation. In that he was 
justified; and our sympathy with him would be keener 
if his own record in other respects had been brighter. 

Chapter XXVII. 

One of the first matters which occupied Flinders after 
his arrival in England was the use of his influence with 
the Admiralty to secure the release of a few French 
prisoners of war who were relatives of his friends in 
Mauritius. In a letter he pointed out that these men 
were connected with respectable families from whom 
he himself and several other English prisoners had 
received kindness.* His plea was successful. There 
was, surely, a peculiar beauty in this act of sympathy on 
the part of one who had so recently felt the pain and 
distress of captivity. 

Flinders was anxious for news about his old Investi- 
gator shipmates. The faithful Elder, he found, had 
secured an appointment as servant to Admiral Hollo- 
well, then on service in the Mediterranean, and was a 
great favourite. Franklin was able to enlighten him 
as to some of the others. Purdie, who had been 
assistant-surgeon, was surgeon on the Pompey. Inman, 
who had been sent out to act as astronomer during the 
latter part of the voyage, was a professor at the Naval 
College, Portsmouth. Lacy and Sinclair, midship- 
men, were dead. Louth was a midshipman on the 
Warrior. Olive was purser on the Heir Apparent, and 
Matt, the carpenter, filled that post on the Bellerophon. 
Of Dr. Bell Franklin knew nothing. "The old ship," 
he said, "is lying at Portsmouth, cut down nearly to the 
water's edge." 

* Flinders' Papers. 



In naval and scientific circles Flinders was the ob- 
ject of much honour and interest. He was received 
"with flattering attention" at the Admiralty. We find 
him visiting Lord Spencer, who, having authorised the 
Investigator voyage, was naturally concerned to hear of 
its eventful history. Banks took him to the Royal 
Society and gave a dinner in his honour. The Duke 
of Clarence, afterwards William IV., himself a sailor, 
wished to meet him and inspect his charts, and he was 
taken to see the Prince by Bligh. In 1812 he gave 
evidence before a Committee of the House of Commons 
on the penal transportation system.* What he had 
to say related principally to the nature of the country 
he had examined in the course of his explorations. 
"Were you acquainted with Port Dalrymple?" the 
chairman asked him. "I discovered Port Dalrymple." 
"Were you ever at the Derwent?" "I was, and from 
my report, I believe, it was that the first settlement was 
made there." He was one of the few early explorers 
of Australia whose vision was hopeful; and experience 
has in every instance justified his foreseeing optimism. 

But save for a few social events, and for some 
valuable experiments with the magnetic needle, to be 
referred to in the final chapter, his time and energies 
were absorbed by work upon his charts. He laboured 
incessantly, "I am at my voyage," he said in a letter, 
"but it does by no means advance according to my 
wishes. Morning, noon and night I sit close at 
writing, and at my charts, and can hardly find time for 
anything else." He was a merciless critic when the 
proofs came from the engravers. One half-sheet con- 
tains 92 corrections and improving marks in his hand- 
writing. Such directions as "make the dot distinct," 

* House of Commons Papers, 1812; the evidence was given on 
March 25th. 


''strengthen the coast-line," "make this track a fair equal 
line," "points wanting," are abundant. As we turn 
over the great folio which represents so much labour, 
so much endurance, so much suffering, it is good to re- 
member that these superb drawings are the result of the 
ceaselessly patient toil of perhaps the most masterly 
cartographer who has ever adorned the British naval 

He took similar pains with the text of A Voyage 
to Terra Australis. It was never meant to be a book 
for popular reading, though there is no lack of enter- 
tainment in it. It was a semi-official publication, in 
which the Admiralty claimed and retained copyright, 
and its author was perhaps a little hampered by that 
circumstance. Bligh asked that it should be dedicated 
to him, but "the honour was declined."* The book 
was produced under the direction of a committee ap- 
pointed by the Admiralty, consisting of Banks, Barrow, 
and Flinders himself. 

It abounds in exact data concerning the latitude and 
longitude of coastal features. The English is every- 
where clear and sound; but the book which Flinders 
could have written had he lived a few years longer, if it 
had been penned with the freedom which made his con- 
versation so delightful to his friends, might have been 
one of the most entertaining pieces of travel literature 
in the language. At first he was somewhat apprehen- 
sive about authorship, and thought of calling in the aid 
of a friend; but the enforced leisure of Ile-de-France 
induced him to depend upon his own efforts. Before 
he left England in 1801, he had suggested that he 
might require assistance. In a letter to Willingham 
Franklin, John's brother, a fellow of Oriel College, 

* Flinders' Papers. 


Oxford, and afterwards a Judge in Madras, he wrote 
(November 27th, 1801) :* 

"You must understand that this voyage of ours 
is to be written and published on our return. I am 
now engaged in writing a rough account, but author- 
ship sits awkwardly upon me. I am diffident of appear- 
ing before the public unburnished by an abler hand. 
What say you? Will you give me your assistance if 
on my return a narration of our voyage should be called 
for from me? If the voyage be well executed and well 
told afterwards I shall have some credit to spare to 
deserving friends. If the door now open suits your 
taste and you will enter, it should be yours for the 
undertaking. A little mathematical knowledge will 
strengthen your style and give it perspicuity. Arrange- 
ment is the material point in voyage-writing as well as 
in history. I feel great diffidence here. Sufficient 
matter I can easily furnish, and fear not to prevent any- 
thing unseamanlike from entering into the composition; 
but to round a period well and arrange sentences so as 
to place what is meant in the most perspicuous point of 
view is too much for me. Seamanship and authorship 
make too great an angle with each other; the further a 
man advances upon one line the further distant he be- 
comes from any point on the other." 

It did not prove so in Flinders' own case, for his 
later letters and the latter part of his book are written 
in an easier, more freely-flowing style than marks his 
earlier writings. He solicited no assistance in the final 
preparation of his work. He preferred to speak to 
his public in his own voice, and was unquestionably well 
advised in so doing. It is a plain, honest sailor's story; 
that of a cultivated man withal. 

Intense application to the work in hand brought 

* Flinders' Papers. 


about a recurrence of the constitutional internal trouble 
which had occasioned some pain in Mauritius. The ill- 
ness became acute at the end of 1813. He was only 
39 years of age, but Mrs. Flinders wrote to a friend 
that he had aged so much that he looked 70, and was 
"worn to a skeleton." He mentioned in his journal 
that he was suffering much pain. Yet he was never 
heard to complain, and was never irritable or trouble- 
some to those about him. He was full of kindness and 
concern for his friends. We find him attending sittings 
of the Admiralty Court, where his friend Pitot had a 
suit against the British Government, and he interested 
himself in the promotion of two of his old Investigator 
midshipmen. He urged upon the Admiralty with all 
his force that his own branch of the naval service was 
as honourable and as deserving of official recognition 
as war service. The only inducement for young officers 
to join a voyage of discovery, and forego the advan- 
tages arising from prizes and active service, was the 
reasonable certainty of promotion on their return. 
"This," he observed, "certainly has been relied upon 
and fulfilled in expeditions which returned in time of 
peace, when promotion is so difficult to be obtained; 
whereas I sailed and my officers returned during a war 
in which promotion was never before so liberally be- 
stowed. Yet no one of my officers, so far as I have 
been able to ascertain, has received promotion for their 
services in that voyage, although it has been allowed the 
service was well executed."* 

The illness increased during 1814, while the 
"Voyage" and its accompanying atlas were passing 
through the press. He never saw the finished book. 
The first copy of it came from the publishers, G. and W. 
Nicol, of Pall Mall, on July 18th, on the day before he 

* Flinders' Papers. 


died; but he was then unconscious. His wife took the 
volumes and laid them upon his bed, so that the hand 
that fashioned them could touch them. But he never 
understood. He was fast wrapped in the deep slumber 
that preceded the end. On the 19th he died. His 
devoted wife stood by his pillow, his infant daughter 
(born April 1st, 1812) was in an adjoining room, and 
there was one other friend present. Just before the 
brave life flickered out, he started up, and called in a 
hoarse voice for "my papers." Then he fell back and 

Upon the manuscript of the friend who wrote an 
account of his death, there is pencilled a brief memoran- 
dum, which chronicles a few words muttered some time 
before death touched his lips. The pencil-writing is 
rubbed and only partly decipherable, but the letters 
"Dr." are distinct. I take the meaning to be that the 
doctor attending him heard him murmur the words. 
They are: "But it grows late, boys, let us dismiss!" 
One can easily realise the kind of picture that floated 
before the mind of the dying navigator. It was, surely, 
a happy vision of a night among friends and com- 
panions, who had listened with delight to the vivid talk 
of him who had seen and done so much in his wonderful 
forty years of life. In such a company his mates would 
not be the first to wish to break the spell, so he gave the 
word: "it grows late, boys, let us dismiss." 

Flinders died at 14 London Street, Fitzroy Square, 
and was buried in the graveyard of St. James's, Hamp- 
stead Road, which was a burial ground for St. James's, 
Piccadilly. No man now knows exactly where his 
bones were laid.* A letter written years later by his 

* The vicar of St. James's, Piccadilly, who examined the burial 
register in response to an enquiry by Mr. George Gordon McCrae, 
of Melbourne, in 1912, states that the entry was made, by a clerical 
error, in the name of Captain Matthew Flanders, aged 40. 


daughter, Mrs. Petrie, says: "Many years afterwards 
my aunt Tyler went to look for his grave, but found the 
churchyard remodelled, and quantities of tombstones 
and graves with their contents had been carted away as 
rubbish, among them that of my unfortunate father, 
thus pursued by disaster after death as in life." 

On the 25th of the same month died Charles Dib- 
din, who wrote the elegy of the perfect sailor: 

" Here a sheer hulk lies poor Tom Bowling. 
The darling of our crew, 
No more he'll hear the tempest howling 
For death has broached him to." 

During his last years in London, Flinders lodged in 
six houses successively, and it may be as well to enumer- 
ate them. They were, 16 King Street, Soho, from 
November 5th, 1810; 7 Nassau Street, Soho, from 
January 19th, 1811; 7 Mary Street, Brook Street, 
from 30th September, 1811; 45 Upper John Street, 
Fitzroy Square, from March 30th, 1813; 7 Upper 
Fitzroy Street, from May 28th, 1813; and 14 London 
Street, Fitzroy Square, from February 28th, 1814. 

A letter from the widow to her husband's French 
friend Pitot, evidently in answer to a message of 
sympathy, is poignant: "You who were in a measure 
acquainted with the many virtues and inestimable 
qualities he possessed, will best appreciate the worth of 
the treasure I have lost, and you will easily imagine 
that, were the whole universe at my command, it cculd 
offer no compensation ; and even the tenderest sympathy 
of the truest friend avails but little in a case of such 
severe trial and affliction. You will not be surprised 
when I say that sorrow continually circles round my 
heart and tears are my daily companion. 'Tis true 
the company of my little girl soothes and cheers many 


an hour that would otherwise pass most wearily away, 
but life has lost its chief charm, and the world appears 
a dreary wilderness to me." 

An unpleasant feature of the subject, which cannot 
be overlooked, relates to the Admiralty's ungenerous 
treatment of Flinders and his widow. When he returned 
from Mauritius, the First Lord was Mr. C. P. Yorke 
after whom Flinders named Yorke's Peninsula, who 
was inclined to recognise that the special circumstances 
of the case demanded special treatment. He at once 
promoted Flinders to the rank of Post-Captain. But 
in consequence of his long detention Flinders had lost 
the opportunity for earlier promotion. It was ad- 
mitted that if he had returned to England in 1804 he 
would at once have been rewarded for his services by 
promotion to post-captain's rank. Indeed, Lord 
Spencer had definitely promised him a step in rank. It 
was therefore urged in his behalf that, as he had not 
been a prisoner of war in the ordinary sense, his com- 
mission should be ante-dated to 1804. Yorke appeared 
to think the claim reasonable. The Admiralty con- 
ceded that he had not been a prisoner of war, and he 
was not brought before a court-martial, although the 
Cumberland, left to rot in Port Louis, had been lost to 
the service. The First Lord directed that the com- 
mission should be ante-dated to the time of the release, 
but it was not considered that more could be done with- 
out an Order in Council. This could not be obtained 
at the moment, because King George III. was mentally 
incapacitated. When the Regency was established 
(1811) an application did not meet with a sympathetic 
response. "The hinge upon which my case depends," 
said Flinders in a letter, "is whether my having suffered 
so long and unjustly in the Isle of France is a sufficient 
reason that I should now suffer in England the loss of 
six years' rank." The response of the Admiralty 


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officials was that the case was peculiar; there was "no 
precedent" for ante-dating a promotion. 

Flinders asked that he might be put on full pay, 
while he was writing the Voyage, which would make up 
the difference in the expense to which he would be put 
by living in town instead of in the country; but Barrow 
assured him that the Admiralty would object "for want 
of a precedent." He showed that he would be £500 
or £600 out of pocket, to say nothing of the loss of 
chances of promotion by remaining ashore. It was to 
meet this position that the Admiralty granted him 
£200; but as a matter of fact he was still £300 out of 
pocket,* and was put out of health irrecoverably by 
intense application to the task. His friend, Captain 
Kent, then of the Agincourt, advised him to abandon 
the work. "I conjure you," he wrote "to give the sub- 
ject your serious attention, and do not suffer yourself 
to be involved in debt to gratify persons who seem to 
have no feeling." But to have abandoned his beloved 
work at this stage would have appeared worse to him 
than loss of life itself. The consequence was that 
his expenses during this period, even with the 
strictly economical mode of living which he adopted, 
entrenched upon the small savings which he was 
able to leave to his widow. He was compelled 
to represent that, unless a concession were made, 
he would have to choose between abandoning his 
task or reducing his family to distress; and it was for 
this reason that the Admiralty granted a special allow- 
ance of £200, in supplement of his halfpay. This, with 
£500 "in lieu of compensation" on account of his 
detention in Ile-de-France was the entire consideration 
that he received. 

When he died, application was made to the 
Admiralty to grant a special pension to Mrs. Flinders. 

* Flinders' Papers, 


The widow of Captain Cook had been granted a pen- 
sion of £200 a year. (Mrs. Cook, by the way, was still 
living in England at this time; she did not die till 
1835). Stout old Sir Joseph Banks declared that he 
would not die happy unless something were done for 
the widow and child of Matthew Flinders. But his 
influence with the Admiralty was not so great as it had 
been in Lord Spencer's time, and his efforts were in- 
effectual. The case was at a later date brought under 
the notice of William IV., who said that he saw no rea- 
son why the widow of Captain Flinders should not 
receive the same treatment as the widow of Captain 
Cook. The King mentioned the subject to Lord Mel- 
bourne; he, however, was unsympathetic, and nothing 
whatever was done. Mrs. Flinders was paid only the 
meagre pension of a post-captain's widow until she died 
in 1852. No official reward of any kind was granted 
by the British Government for the truly great services 
and discoveries of Flinders. The stinginess of a rich 
nation is a depressing subject to reflect upon in a case 
of this kind. 

A gratifying contrast is afforded by the voluntary 
action of two Australian colonies. It was learnt, to 
the surprise of many, some time after 1850, that the 
widow of the discoverer and her married daughter were 
living in England, and were not too well provided for. 
The Colonies of New South Wales and Victoria there- 
upon (1853) voted a pension of £100 a year each to 
Mrs. Flinders, with reversion to Mrs. Petrie. The 
news of this decision did not reach England in time to 
please the aged widow, but the spirit of the grant gave 
unfeigned satisfaction to Flinders' daughter. "Could 
my beloved mother have lived to receive this announce- 
ment," she wrote,* "it would indeed have cheered her 

* New South Wales Parliamentary Papers, 1854, L, 785. 


last days to know that my father's long-neglected ser- 
vices were at length appreciated. But my gratification 
arising from the grant is extreme, especially at it comes 
from a quarter in which I had not solicited considera- 
tion; and the handsome amount of the pension granted 
will enable me to educate my young son in a manner 
worthy of the name he bears, Matthew Flinders."* 

The Voyage to Terra Australis, it may be 
mentioned, was originally sold for 8 or 12 guineas, 
according to whether or not the atlas was bought with 
the two quarto volumes. A copy to-day, with the folio 
Atlas, sells for about 10 guineas. 

* "My young son" is the present Professor W. Matthew Flinders 

Chapter XXVIII. 

Matthew Flinders was a short, neatly-built, very 
lithe and active man. He stood five feet six inches in 
height* His figure was slight and well proportioned. 
When he was in full health, his light, buoyant step was 
remarked upon by acquaintances. Neither of the two 
portraits of him conveys a good impression of his alert, 
commanding look. His nose was "rather aquiline," 
and his lips were customarily compressed. "He had a 
noble brow, hair almost black, eyes dark, bright, and 
with a commanding expression, amounting almost to 
sternness." So his friend records. 

Mrs. Flinders was not satisfied with the engraved 
portrait published in the Naval Chronicle, 1814, nor 
with the miniature from which it was reproduced. In 
a letter to Captain Stuart she wrote: "In the portrait 
you will not be able to trace much of your departed 
friend. The miniature from which it was taken is but 
an indifferent likeness, and the engraver has not done 
justice to it. He has given the firmness of the counte- 
nance but not the intelligence or animation." It is 
quite certain that a rapid, piercing, commanding ex- 
pression of eye and features was characteristic of him. 
During his captivity, the look in his eyes forbad all 
approach to familiarity. There is record of an 
occasion — in all probability connected with the sword 
incident — when he was addressed in terms that 
appeared to him to be wanting in respect; and the un- 
lucky Frenchman who ventured thus far was so 

* These particulars are from the MSS. sketch by a friend, 
previously cited; Flinders' Papers. 



astonished at the sternness of countenance that immedia- 
tely confronted him, that he started back some paces- 
He had been accustomed to command from an early 
age, and had exercised authority on service of a kind 
that compelled him to demand ceaseless vigilance and 
indefatigable vigour from himself and those under him. 
In a passage written in Mauritius* he makes allusion 
to the stern element in his character; and surely what 
he says here is worthy of being well pondered by all 
whose duty demands the exercise of power over other 

"I shall learn patience in this island, which will per- 
haps counteract the insolence acquired by having had 
unlimited command over my fellow men. You know, 
my dearest, that I always dreaded the effect that the 
possession of great authority would have upon my 
temper and disposition. I hope they are neither of 
them naturally bad; but, when we see such a vast 
difference between men dependent and men in power, 
any man who has any share of impartiality must fear 
for himself. My brother will tell you that I am proud, 
unindulgenr, and hasty to take offence, but I doubt 
whether John Franklin will confirm it, although there 
is more truth in the charge than I wish there were. In 
this land, those malignant qualities are ostentatiously 
displayed. I am made to feel their sting most poig- 
nantly. My mind has been taught a lesson in 
philosophy, and my judgment has gained an accession 
of experience that will not soon be forgotten." 

That is a fairly rigorous piece of self-analysis; but 
there are abundant facts to show that he exercised 
authority with a kindly and friendly disposition, and did 
not surpass the limits of wisdom. Men like a com- 
mander who can command; the weak inspire no confi- 

* Flinders' Papers. 


dence. Flinders had the art of attracting people to 
him. His servant, the faithful John Elder, willingly 
endured imprisonment with him, and would not leave 
him until his own health gave way. John Thistle, who 
had served under him before 1800, returned to Eng- 
land shortly before the Investigator sailed, and at once 
volunteered for service under him again. He ruled his 
crews by sheer force of mind and unsparing example, 
and though the good of the service in hand was ever 
his first thought, there is plenty of evidence to prove 
that the happiness of the men under him was constantly 
in his mind. 

In hours of relaxation he was genial, a lively com- 
panion, a warm friend. An intimate friend records: 
"He possessed the social virtues and affections in an 
eminent degree, and in conversation he was particularly 
agreeable, from the extent of his general information 
and the lively acuteness of his observations. His in- 
tegrity, uprightness of intention, and liberality of senti- 
ment were not to be surpassed." 

A scrap of dialogue written for insertion in the 
Voyage to Terra A us trails, but cancelled with other 
matter, enables us to realise that he could recall an inci- 
dent with some dramatic force. Bonnefoy, an 
interpreter in Ile-de-France, told him a story of an 
American skipper under examination by one of General 
Decaen's officers, and he wrote it down as follows : — 

"I was amused with his account of a blunt American 
captain who, having left a part of his people to collect 
seal-skins upon the island Tristan d'Acuna, had come in 
for provisions, and to get his vessel repaired. This 
honest man did not wish to tell where he was collecting 
his cargo, nor did he understand all the ceremony he 
was required to go through. The dialogue that passed 
between the old seaman and the French officers of the 
port was nearly thus : 





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"Off.: 'From whence do you come, Sir?' 

" 'From whence do I come? Haugh! why, Mon- 
sieur, I come from the Atlantic Ocean.' 

"Off.: 'But, pray, Sir, from what port?' 

" 'Port? You will find that out from my papers, 
which I suppose you want to see?' 

"Off. : 'It appears, Sir, that you have not above 
half your crew on board. Be so good as to inform me 
where are the rest?' 

" 'O, rny crew? Poor fellows, yes, why, Sir, we 
met with an island of ice on the road, and I left them 
there a-basket-making.' 

"Off.: 'Making baskets on an island of ice? This 
is a very strange answer, Sir; and give me leave to tell 
you such will not do here; but you will accompany me 
to the Captain-General, and we shall then see whether 
you will answer or not.' 

" 'Ay, we shall see indeed. Why, look ye, Mon- 
sieur: as to what I have been about, that is nothing to 
anybody. I am an honest man, and that's enough for 
you ; but if you want to know why I am come here, it is 
to buy provisions and to lie quiet a little bit. I am not 
come to beg or steal, but to buy, and I fancy good bills 

upon M of Salem will suit you very well, eh, 

Monsieur? Convenient enough?' 

"Off. : 'Very well, Sir, you will come with us to the 

" 'To the General? I have nothing to do with 
Generals! They don't understand my business. Sup- 
pose I dont go?' 

"Off.: 'You will do as you please, Sir; but if you 
do not, you will soon ' " 

The sheet on which the continuation of this vigorous 
bit of dialogue was written* is unfortunately missing, so 

* MS., Mitchell Library. 


that we are deprived of the joy of reading the con- 
clusion of the comedy. But as the passage stands it 
presents a truly dramatic picture. 

We get a glimpse of the way in which genial spirits 
regarded him in a jolly letter from Madras, from 
Lieutenant Fitzwilliam Owen, who had been a prisoner 
with him in Mauritius, and was on the cartel on which 
he sailed from that island. "You cannot doubt how 
much our society misses you. We toasted you, Sir, like 
Englishmen. We sent the heartiest good wishes of 
your countrymen, ay, and women too, to Heaven for 
your success, in three times three loud and manly cheers, 
dictated by that sincerity which forms the glorious 
characteristic of our rough-spun English. Nay, Waugh 
got drunk for you, and the ladies did each take an extra 
glass to you."* 

A pleasant playful touch makes the following letter 
to his wife's half-sister worth quoting. He was hungry 
for home letters in Ile-de-France, and thus gently chid 
the girl: "There is indeed a report among the whales 
in the Indian Ocean that a scrap of a letter from you did 
pass by for Port Jackson, and a flying fish in the Pacific 
even says he saw it; but there is no believing these 
travellers. If you will take the trouble to give it under 
your own hand I will then believe that you have written 
to me. A certain philosopher being informed that his 
dear friend was dead, replied that he would not believe 
it without having it certified under his own hand; a very 
commendable prudence this, and worthy of imitation 
in all intricate cases. As I have a fund of justice at the 
bottom of my conscience, which will not permit me to 
exact from others more than I would perform myself, 
I do hereby certify that I have this day addressed a 
letter to my well-beloved sister Isabella Tyler, spinster, 
in which letter I do desire for her all manner of bless- 

* Flinders' Papers. 



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ings, spiritual and temporal; that she may speedily 
obtain a husband six feet high, if it so pleases her, with 
the wishing cap of Fortunatus." 

The strictness of the man's conduct, in his relations 
with superiors and subordinates alike, sprang from his 
integrity of heart. Everybody trusted him. A 
memoir published by a contemporary commented upon 
the fidelity of his friendships. "He was faithful to the 
utmost in the performance of a promise, whether im- 
portant or trifling in its consequences." 

Some of the best friends he ever made were among 
the French in Ile-de-France ; and he became so much 
attached to them that, even when he secured his longed- 
for freedom, he could not part from them without a 
pang of regret. They saw in him not only a wronged 
man, but a singularly high-minded one. Pitot, writing 
to Bougainville to urge him to do his utmost to secure 
Flinders' release, repudiated, in these terms, the idea 
that he could be a spy:* "No, Monsieur Flinders is not 
capable of such conduct; his pure and noble character 
would never permit him to descend to the odious em- 
ployment of a spy." One wonders whether by any 
chance Bougainville had occasion to show that letter to 
Messieurs Peron and Freycinet! 

A touching and beautiful example of his gentleness 
occurred in connection with a wounded French officer 
whom he visited at Port Louis. Lieutenant Charles 
Baudin des Ardennes had sailed as a junior officer on 
he Geographe under Baudin (to whom he was not 
related) and Flinders had known him at Port Jackson. 
In 1807 he was serving as a lieutenant on La Semillante, 
in the Indian Ocean. He was badly wounded in a 
sharp engagement with the British ship Terpsichore m 
March, 1807, and was brought into Port Louis, where 

*MSS., Mitchell Library; letter dated 19 Vendemiaire, an XIII. 
(Oct. 11, 1804). 


his shattered right arm was amputated. Flinders, full 
of compassion for the young man, visited him, and, as 
oranges were required for the sufferer, bought up the 
whole stock of a fruiterer, 53 of them. Upon his 
return to Wilhelm's Plains, he wrote Baudin a letter of 
sympathy and encouragemeent, bidding him reflect that 
there were other branches of useful service open to a 
sailor than that of warfare. He had commenced his 
naval career with discovery; he now knew what the 
horrors of war were. Which was the worthier branch 
of the two? Flinders continued: "No, my friend, I 
cannot contemplate this waste of human life to serve 
the cause of restless ambition without horror. Never 
shall my hands be voluntarily steeped in blood, but in 
the defence of my country. In such a cause every other 
sentiment vanishes. Also, my friend, if ever you have 
thought my actions worthy of being imitated, imitate 
me in this. You have, like me, had just sufficient ex- 
perience to learn what the commander of a voyage of 
discovery ought to be, and what he ought to know. 
Adieu, my dear friend. May the goodness of God 
speedily restore you to perfect health, and turn your 
thoughts from war to peace." Young Baudin, it may 
be added, was not compelled by the loss of his arm to 
leave the service. He became an Admiral in 1839, 
and lived till 1854. 

Flinders endeavoured to exert a stimulating influence 
upon young officers. Writing to his brother (Dec. 
6th, 1806) he said:* "Remember that youth is the time 
in which a store of knowledge, reputation and fortune 
must be laid in to make age respectable. Imitate, my 
dear Samuel, all that you have found commendable in 
my proceedings, manners, and principles, and avoid the 

* Mr. Charles Bertie, of the Municipal Library, Sydney, has 
kindly supplied me with this letter, which was obtained from Pro- 
fessor Flinders Petrie. 


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rest. Study is necessary, as it gives theory. I need 
not speak to you now upon this, but active exertion is 
still more necessary to a good sea officer. From both 
united it is that perfection is attained. Neither would 
I have yoa neglect politeness, and the best society to 
which circumstances may permit your admission ; though 
not the basis that constitutes a good officer or valuable 
member of society, the manners thereby acquired are 
yet of infinite service to those who possess them." 

There could hardly be a sounder piece of advice to 
a young officer from an elder than is contained in a letter 
written by Flinders to John Franklin's father. It was 
intended for the youth's eye, beyond a doubt. It is 
dated May 10th, 1805:* "I hope John will have got 
into some active ship to get his time completed before I 
go out another voyage, and learn the discipline of the 
service. I have no doubt of being able to get him a 
lieutenant's commission if it should be agreeable to him 
to sail with me again. He may rest confident of my 
friendship, although I believe he had some fears on that 
head when we parted, on account of a difference 
between him and my brother. He has ability enough., 
but he must be diligent, studious, active in his duty, not 
over-ready to take offence at his superior officers, nor 
yet humbling too much to them ; but in all things should 
make allowances for difference of disposition and ways 
of thinking and should judge principally from the in- 
tention. Above all things he should be strict in his 
honour and integrity, for a man who forfeits either can- 
not be independent or brave at all times; and he should 
not be afraid to be singular, for, if he is, the ridicule 
of the vicious would beat him out of his rectitude as well 
as out of his attention to his duty. I do not speak this 
from my fear of him, but from my anxiety to see him 

* MSS., Mitchell Library. 



the shining charatcer which I am sure he is capable of 

In a similar strain is a letter to John Franklin 
(January 1 4th, 1812) regarding a lad named Wiles, 
the son of a Jamaica friend, who had lately been put- 
on the Bedford as a midshipman: "I will thank you to 
let me know from time to time how he goes on. Pray 
don't let him be idle. Employ him in learning to knot 
and splice under a quartermaster; in working under 
observation, in writing his journal, and in such studies 
as may be useful to him. Make it a point of honour 
with him to be quick in relieving the deck, and strict in 
keeping his watch ; and when there are any courts martial 
endeavour either to take him with you or that he may 
attend when it can be done. In fine, my dear John, 
endeavour to make a good officer and a good man of 
him, and be sure I shall always entertain a grateful sense 
of your attention to him." 

Active-minded himself, he encouraged study among 
those who came in contact with him. It gave him 
pleasure to teach mathematics to Madame D'Arifat's 
sons at Wilhelm's Plains. He mastered French so as 
to speak it with grace and write with ease. He worked 
at Malay because he thought it would be useful on 
future voyages. From the early days, when he taught 
himself navigation amidst the swamps of his native 
Lincolnshire, until his last illness laid him low, he was 
ever an eager student. Intelligent curiosity and a 
desire to know the best that the best minds could teach 
were a basic part of his character. We find him coun- 
selling Ann Chappell, at about the time when he 
became engaged to her:* u Learn music, learn the 
French language, enlarge the subjects of thy pencil, 
study geography and astronomy and even metaphysics, 

* Flinders' Papers. 


sooner than leave thy mind unoccupied. Soar, my 
Annette, aspire to the heights of science. Write a 
great deal, work with thy needle a great deal, and read 
every book that comes in thy way, save trifling novels." 
Flinders read widely, and always carried a good 
library with him on his voyages. His acquaintance 
with the literature of navigation was very extensive. 
Some of his books were lost in the Porpoise wreck; the 
remainder he took with him in the Cumberland, and. 
when he was imprisoned, his anxiety to secure his 
printed volumes manifested the true book-lover's 
hunger to have near him those companions of his in- 
tellectual life. He derived great pleasure from the 
French literature which he studied in Mauritius. A 
letter to his wife dated March, 1803, when he was upon 
the north coast of Australia in the Investigator, reveals 
him relieving his mind, amid anxieties about the con- 
dition of the ship, by reading Milton's Paradise Lost. 
"The elevation and, also, the fall of our first parents," 
he comments, "told with such majesty by him whose 
eyes lacked all of what he threw so masterly o'er the 
great subject, dark before and intricate — these with 
delight I perused, not knowing which to admire most, 
the poet's daring, the subject, or the success with which 
his bold attempt was crowned." He somewhat 
quaintly compares his wife with Eve: "But in thee I 
have more faith than Adam had when he, complying 
with Eve's request of separation in their labours, said 
'Go, thou best, last gift of God, go in thy native inno- 
cence.' But how much dearer art thou here than our 
first mother! Our separation was not sought by thee, 
but thou borest it as a vine whose twining arms when 
turned from round the limb lie prostrate, broken, life 
scarcely left enough to keep the withered leaf from 
falling off." We should especially have welcomed 
notes from such a pen on a few passages in Milton 


which must have stirred his deepest interest, as for 
example the majestic comparison of Satan's flight: 

" As when far off at sea a fleet descried 
Hangs in the clouds, by equinoctial winds 
Close sailing from Bengala, or the isles 
Of Ternate or Tidore, whence merchants bring 
Their spicy drugs ; they on the trading flood, 
Through the wide Ethiopian to the Cape, 
Ply stemming nightly towards the pole: so seemed 
Far off the flying Fiend." 

To these characteristics may be added a passage illus- 
trating the view of our navigator concerning the 
marriage state. It must be confessed that when he 
wrote it (June 30th, 1807) his experience was not ex- 
tensive. He left England when he had been a husband 
only a few weeks; but the passage is interesting as con- 
veying to his wife what his conception of the ideal 
relation was : "There is a medium between petticoat 
government and tyranny on the part of the husband, that 
with thee I think to be very attainable; and which I 
consider to be the summit of happiness in the marriage 
state. Thou wilt be to me not only a beloved wife, but 
my most dear and most intimate friend, as I hope to be 
to thee. If we find failings, we will look upon them with 
kindness and compassion, and in each other's merits we 
will take pride, and delight to dwell upon them ; thus we 
will realise, as far as may be, the happiness of heaven 
upon the earth. I love not greatness nor desire great- 
riches, being confident they do not contribute to happi- 
ness, but I desire to have enough for ourselves and 
something to assist our friends in need. I think, my 
love, this is also thy way of thinking." 

In the few concluding months of her husband's life, 
Mrs. Flinders had him beside her under circumstances 
that were certainly far from easy. Their somewhat 


straitened means, consequent upon the Admiralty's 
niggard construction of regulations, the prolonged 
severity of his employment, and the last agonised weeks 
of illness, must have gone far to detract from perfect 
felicity in domestic conditions. The six changes of 
residence in four and a half years point to the same con- 
clusion. Nevertheless we find Mrs. Flinders writing 
to a friend in these terms, wherein her own happiness is 
clearly mirrored: "I am well persuaded that very few 
men know how to value the regard and tender attentions 
of a wife who loves them. Men in general cannot 
appreciate properly the delicate affection of a woman, 
and therefore they do not know how to return it. To 
make the married life as happy as this world will allow 
it to be, there are a thousand little amenities to be 
rendered on both sides, and as many little shades of 
comfort to be attended to. Many things must be over- 
looked, for we are all such imperfect beings; and to 
bear and forbear is essential to domestic peace. You 
will say that I find it easy to talk on this subject, and 
that precept is harder than practice. I allow it, my 
dear friend, in the practical part I have only to return 
kind affection and attention for uniform tenderness and 
regard. I have nothing unpleasant to call forth my for- 
bearance. Day after day, month after month passes, 
and I neither experience an angry look nor a dissatisfied 
word. Our domestic life is an unvaried line of peace 
and comfort; and O, may Heaven continue it such, so 
long as it shall permit us to dwell together on this 

Chapter XXIX. 

Not only is Flinders to be regarded as a discoverer 
whose researches completed the world's knowledge of 
the last extensive region of the habitable globe remain- 
ing in his time to be revealed; not only as one whose 
work was marked by an unrivalled exactitude and fine- 
ness of observation; but also as one who did very much 
to advance the science of navigation in directions calcu- 
lated to make seafaring safer, more certain, with better 
means and methods at disposal. Malte-Brun declared, 
when he died, that "the geographical and nautical 
sciences have lost in the person of Flinders one of their 
most brilliant ornaments,"* and that criticism, coming 
from a foreign critic than whom there was no better 
informed savant in Europe, was no mere piece ot 
obituary rhetoric. 

In 1805 he wrote a paper on the Marine Barometer, 
based upon observations made during his Australian 
voyages. The instrument employed was one which 
had been used by Cook; Flinders always kept it in his 
cabin. He was the first to discover, and this essay was 
the first attempt to show, the connection between the 
rise and fall of the barometer and the direction of the 
wind. Careful observation showed him that where 
his facts were collected the mercury of the 
barometer rose some time before a change from 
landbreeze to Seabreeze, and fell before the 
change from Seabreeze to landbreeze. Consequently 
a change of wind might generally be predicted 

* Annates des Voyages, XXIIL, 268. 



from the barometer. The importance of these obser- 
vations was at once recognised by men connected with 
navigation. As the Edinburgh Review wrote, dealing 
with Flinders' paper when presented before the Royal 
Society on March 27th, 1806:* "It is very easy for us, 
speculating in our closet upon the theory of winds and 
their connection with the temperature, to talk of draw- 
ing a general inference on this subject with confidence. 
But when the philosopher chances to be a seaman on a 
very dangerous coast, it will be admitted that the 
strength of this confidence is put to a test somewhat more 
severe; and we find nevertheless that Captain Flinders 
staked the safety of his ship and the existence of him- 
self and his crew on the truth of the above proposition. " 
Nowadays, indeed, the principal use of a barometer to 
a navigator aboard ship is to enable him to anticipate 
changes of wind. 

Not less important were his experiments and 
writings upon variations of the compass aboard ship. 
The fact that the needle of a compass showed devia- 
tions on being moved from one part of a ship to another 
had been observed by navigators in the eighteenth 
century, but Flinders was the first to experiment 
systematically to ascertain the cause and to invent a 
remedy, t 

He observed not only that the direction of the 
needle varied according to the part of the ship where it 
was placed, but also that a change in the direction of the 
ship's head made a difference. Further, he found that 
in northern latitudes (in the English Channel, for in- 

*Edinburgh Review, January, 1807; Flinders' Paper, "Observa- 
tions on the Marine Barometer," was published in the Philosophical 
Transactions of the Royal Society, Part II., 1806. 

f For the history of the matter see Alexander Smith's Intro- 
duction to W. Scoresby's Journal of a Voyage to Australia for 
Magnetic Research (1859). 


stance) the north end of the needle was attracted 
towards the bow of the ship; whilst in southern lati- 
tudes, in Bass Strait, there was an attraction towards the 
stern; and at the equator there was no deviation. He 
came to the conclusion that these results were due to 
the presence of iron in the ship. When he returned to 
England in 1810, he wrote a memorandum on the sub 
ject to the Admiralty, and requested that experiments 
might be made upon ships of the Navy, with the object 
of verifying a law which he had deduced from a long 
series of observations. His conclusion was that "the 
magnetism of the earth and the attraction forward in 
the ship must act upon the needle in the nature of a 
compound force, and that errors produced by the attrac- 
tion should be proportionate to the sines of the angles 
between the ship's head and the magnetic meridian." 
Experiments were made at Sheerness, Portsmouth, and 
Plymouth on five vessels. He took a keen personal 
interest in them ; and the result was his invention of the 
Flinders' bar, which is now used in every properly 
equipped ship in the world. The purpose of the bar, 
which is a vertical rod of soft iron, placed so that its 
upper end is level with or slightly above the compass 
needle, is to compensate for the effect of the vertical soft 
iron in the ship.* Flinders' work upon this technical 
subject was important even in the days of wooden ships 
In this era of iron and steel ships it is regarded by every 
sailor as of the utmost value. 

In Flinders' day the delicacy of the compass, its 
liability to error, the nature of the magnetic force to 
which it responds, and the necessity for care in its hand- 
ling, were very little appreciated. "Among the 
nautical instruments taken to sea there are not any so 111- 

* See the excellent chapter on "Compasses" in Vol. II. of the 
British Admiralty's Manual of Seamanship. 


constructed, nor of which so little care is taken after- 
wards, as the compass," he did not hesitate to write.* 
Compasses were supplied to the Admiralty by contract, 
and were not inspected. They were stowed in store- 
houses without any regard to the attraction to which the 
needles might be exposed. They might be kept in 
store for a few years ; and they were then sent on board 
ships without any re-touching, "for no magnets were 
kept in the dockyards, and probably no person there 
ever saw them used." When a compass was sent 
aboard a ship of the Navy, it was delivered into the 
charge of the boatswain and put into his store or sail- 
room. Perhaps it was put on a shelf with his knives 
and forks and a few marline-spikes. Flinders urged that 
spare compasses should be preserved carefully in officers' 
cabins. Magnets for re-touching were not kept in one 
ship in a hundred. Under these circumstances, he 
asked, "can it be a subject of surprise that the most 
experienced navigators are those who put the least con- 
fidence in the compass, or that ships running three or 
four days without an observation should be found in 
situations very different from what was expected, and 
some of them lost? The currents are easily blamed, 
and sometimes with reason. Ships coming home from 
the Baltic and finding themselves upon the shores of the 
Dutch coast, when they were thought to be on the Eng- 
lish side, lay it to the currents; but the same currents, 
as I am informed, do not prevail when steering in the 
opposite direction." The last is a neat stroke of irony, 
Flinders strongly recommended that the Admiralty 
should appoint an inspector of compasses, that there 
should be at every dockyard an officer for re-touching 
compasses, and that a magnet for re-touching should be 
carried on each flagship. The recommendations may 

* MS., "Chapter in the History of Magnetism ;" Flinders' Papers ; 
another copy was sent to the Admiralty. 


seem like a counsel of elementary precautions to-day. 
but they involved an important reform of method in 

Flinders also wrote on the theory of the tides ; a set 
of notes on the magnetism of the earth exists in manu- 
script; a manuscript of 106 pages, consisting of a 
treatise on spheric trigonometry, is illustrated by beauti- 
fully drawn diagrams, and includes an account of eight 
practical methods of calculating latitude and five of 
calculating longitude. In Mauritius he read all he 
could obtain about the history of the island, and wrote 
a set of notes on Grant's History. 

He was eager to praise the work of previous navi- 
gators. Laperouse was especially a hero of his, and he 
wrote in French for the Societe d'Emulation of Ile-de- 
France an account of the probable fate of that cele- 
brated sailor. In an eloquent passage in this essay, 
speaking of the wreck, he cried: "O, Laperouse, my 
heart speaks to me of the agony that rent yours. Ah, 
your eyes beheld the hapless companions of your 
dangers and your glory fall one after another exhausted 
into the sea. Ah, your eyes saw the fruit of vast and 
useful labours lost to the world. I think of your 
sorrowing family. The picture is too painful for me 
to dwell upon it; but at least when all human hope 
abandoned you, then — the last blessing that God gives 
to the good — a ray of consolation shone upon your 
eyes, and showed you that beyond those furious waves 
which broke upon your vessels and swept away from 
you your companions another refuge was opened to your 
virtues by the angel of pity." 

Knowing the extreme difficulties attaching to navi- 
gation, even when in the public interest he had to make a 
correction in the work of others, he was anxious to cause 
no irritation. He sent to the editor of the Naval 
Chronicle a correction in Horsburgh's Directions for 


Sailing to and from the East Indies, but requested the 
editor to submit it first to the author of that work, and 
to suppress publication if Horsburg so desired. He 
never expressed a tinge of regret that he had chosen a 
field of professional employment wherein promotion 
and reward were not liberally bestowed. Entering the 
Navy under influential auspices, in a period when active 
service provided plentiful scope for advancement, he 
deliberately preferred the explorer's hard lot. The 
only prize money he ever won was £10 after Lord 
Howe's victory in 1794. "I chose a branch," he said 
in a letter to Banks, "which though less rewarded by 
rank and fortune is yet little less in celebrity. If ad- 
verse fortune does not oppose me, I will succeed." He 
succeeded beyond all he could have hoped. 

The excellence of his charts was such that to this 
day the Admiralty charts for those portions of the Aus- 
tralian coast where he did original work bear upon 
them the honoured name of Matthew Flinders; and 
amongst the seamen who habitually traverse these 
coasts, no name, not even that of Cook, is so deeply- 
esteemed as his. Flinders is not a tradition; the navi- 
gators of our own time count him a companion of the 

Chapter XXX. 

The name Australia was given to the great southern 
continent by Flinders. When and why he gave it that 
name will now be shown. 

In the first place a common error must be set right. 
It is sometimes said that the Spanish navigator, Pedro 
Fernandez de Quiros, named one of the islands of the 
New Hebrides group, in 1606, Australia del Espiritu 
Santo. This is not the case. The narrative of his 
voyage described "all this region of the south as far as 
the Pole which from this time shall be called Austrialia 
del Espiritu Santo," from "His Majesty's title of 
Austria." The word Austrialia is a punning name. 
Quiros' sovereign, Philip III., was a Habsburg; and 
Quiros, in compliment to him, devised the name 
Austrialia as combining the meaning "Austrian land," 
as well as "southern land."* 

In 1756 the word "Australasia" was coined. 
Charles de Brosses, in his Histoire des Navigations aux 
Terres Australes, wanted a word to signify a new 
division of the globe. The maps marked off Europe, 
Asia, Africa and America, but the vast region to the 
south of Asia required a name likewise. De Brosses 
simply added "Austral" to "Asia," and printed 
"Australasia" upon his map. 

The earliest use of the word Australia that I have 
been able to find, occurs in the index to the Dutch 
Generale Beschrijvinge van Indien (General Description 

* See Markham, Voyages of Quiros (Hakluyt Society), Vol. I., 
p. xxx. 



of the Indies) published at Batavia in 1638. The work 
consists mainly of accounts of voyages by Dutch vessels 
to the East Indies. Among them is a history of the 
"Australische Navigatien" of Jacob le Maire and 
Willem Cornelisz Schouten, made in 1615-17. They 
sailed through the Straits of Magellan, crossed the 
Pacific, touched at the Solomon Islands, and thence 
made their way round by the north of New Guinea to 
Java. The word Australia does not occur anywhere in 
the black-letter text of the narrative, and the word 
Australische in the phrase "Australische Navigatien," 
simply means southern. There are references in the 
book to "Terra Australis," but Le Maire and Schouten 
knew not Australia. Nor does the narrative make any 
allusion to the continent which we know by that name. 
The Terra Australis of these Dutch navigators was 
land of the southern hemisphere in general. But, 
curiously, the indexer of the Generale Beschrijvinge 
made four entries, in which he employed the word Aus- 
tralia. Thus, his entry "Australia Incognita Ondeckt" 
(Australia Incognita Discovered) referred to passages 
in Le Maire and Schouten's voyage relating to the 
southern lands they had seen. But it did not refer to 
the Australia of modern geography. It is very strange 
that the Dutch indexer in Batavia should have hit upon 
the word and employed it when he did not find it in the 
text of the book itself. 

The use of Australia in an English book of 1693 
is also extremely curious. In 1676 Gabriel de Foigny, 
under the assumed name of Jacques Sadeur, published at 
Vannes a quaint little duodecimo volume, purporting 
to give a description of an unknown southern land. He 
called his book La Terre Australe connue; c'est a dire, 
la description de ce fays inconnu jusqu'ici. It was a 
"voyage imaginaire," a pure piece of fancy. In 1693 
it was translated into English, and published in London, 


by John Dunton, under the title A New Discovery of 
Terra Incognita, or the Southern World, by James 
Sadeur, a Frenchman, who being cast there by a ship- 
wreck, lived 55 years in that country and gives a particu- 
lar description of the manners, customs, religion, laws, 
studies and wars of those southern people, and of some 
animals peculiar to that place; with several other 
rarities. In the original French the word Australia does 
not occur. But in the English translation Foigny's 
phrase "continent de la Terre Australe," is rendered 
"Australia." Foigny's ingenious piece of fiction drew 
its "local colour" from the South American region, not 
from any supposed land in the neighbourhood of the 
Australian continent. The instance is all the more 
interesting from the possibility that the book may have 
given a hint to Swift in the writing of Gulliver's 
Travels * 

In 1770-71 Alexander Dalrymple published An His- 
torical Collection of Voyages and Discoveries in the 
South Pacific Ocean. In the preface to that work he 
used the word Australia as "comprehending the dis- 
coveries at a distance from America to the eastward. "t 
He did not intend it to include the present Australia at 
all. De Brosses had used the three names Magellanica, 
Polynesia and Australasia, which Dalrymple accepted; 
but he thought there was room for a fourth for the area 
east of South America. The part of the Australian 
continent known when Dalrymple published his book — 
only the west and northern coasts — was included within 
the division which De Brosses called Australasia. 

Here we have three instances of the use of the word 
Australia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, 

* See the Cambridge History of English Literature, IX., 106: 
where, however, the English translation is erroneously cited as 
Journey of Jacques Sadour to Australia. 

t P. xv. of the 1780 edition of Dalrymple. 


but without reference to the continent which now bears 
that name. 

In 1793, G. Shaw and J. E. Smith published in 
London a Zoology and Botany of New Holland. Here 
the word Australia was used in its modern sense, as 
applied to the southern continent. The authors wrote 
of "the vast island, or rather continent, of Australia, 
Australasia, or New Holland, which has so lately 
attracted the particular attention of European naviga- 
tors and naturalists." 

The word was not therefore of Flinders' devising. 
But it may be taken to be certain that he was un- 
acquainted with the previous employment of it by the 
Dutch indexer, by Foigny's English translator, or by 
Shaw and Smith. It is doubtul whether he had observed 
the previous use of it by Dalrymple. Undoubtedly he 
had read that author's book. He may have had the 
volumes in his cabin library. But he was so exact and 
scrupulous a man that we can say with confidence that, 
had he remembered the occurrence of the word in Dal- 
rymple, he would have mentioned the fact. The point 
if not material, however, because, as already observed, 
Dalrymple did not apply "Australia" to this continent, 
but to a different region. The essential point is that 
"Australia was reinvented by Flinders."* 

Flinders felt the need of a single word that would 
be a good name for the island which had been demon- 
strated by his own researches to be one great continent. 
It will be remembered that he had investigated the whole 
extent of the southern coasts, had penetrated to the 
extremities of the two great gulfs found there, had 
proved that they did not open into a passage cutting 
Terra Australis in two, and had thoroughly examined 
the Gulf of Carpentaria, finding no inlet southward 

* Morris, Dictionary of Austral English, p. 10. 


there. The country was clearly one immense whole. 
But what was it to be called? Terra Australis, 
Southern Land, was too long, was cumbrous, was Latin. 
That would not be a convenient name for a country that 
was to play any part in the world. The Dutch had 
named the part which they found New Holland. But 
they knew nothing of the east. Cook called the part 
which he had discovered New South Wales. But Cook 
knew nothing of the west. Neither the Dutch nor 
Cook knew anything of the south, a large part of which 
Flinders himself had discovered. 

We find him for the first time using the word 
"Australia" in a letter written to his brother Samuel on 
August 25th, 1804.* He was then living at Wilhelm's 
Plains: "I call the whole island Australia, or Terra 
Australis. New Holland is properly that portion of it 
from 135° of longitude westward; and eastward is New 
South Wales, according to the Governor's patent." 

Flinders' first public use of the word was not in 
English, but in French. In the essay on the^probable 
fate of Laperouse, written for the Societe d'Emulation 
in Ile-de-France (1807), he again stated the need for 
a word in terms which I translate as follows: "The 
examination of the eastern part was commenced in 1770 
by Captain Cook, and has since been completed by 
English navigators. t The first (i.e., the west) is New 
Holland properly so called, and the second bears the 
name of New South Wales. I have considered it con- 
venient to unite the two parts under a common designa- 
tion which will do justice to the discovery rights of 
Holland and England, and I have with that object in 
view had recourse to the name Austral-land or Aus- 

# Flinders' Papers. 

t By himself; but in this paper he modestly said nothing of his 
own researches. 



tralia. But it remains to be seen whether the name 
will be adopted by European geographers."* 

After 1804 Flinders repeatedly used the word Aus- 
tralia in his correspondence. Before that date he had 
invariably written of "New Holland." But in a letter 
to Banks (December 31st, 1804) he referred to "my 
general chart of Australia ;"t in March, 1806, he wrote 
of "the north-west coast of Australia ;"J in July, 1806, 
writing to the King he underlined the word in the 
phrase "my discoveries in Australia ;"§ in July, 1807, 
he spoke of "the north coast of Australia;"** in 
February, 1809, of "the south coast of Australia ;"tt 
and the same phrase was employed in January, 18 10. J{ 
It is therefore apparent that before his return to Eng- 
land he had determined to use the name systematically 
and to make its employment general as far as he could. 
We do not find it occurring in any other correspondence 
of the period. 

When he reached England in 1810 and commenced to 
work upon his book, he wished to use the name Aus- 
tralia, and brought the subject forward at a meeting at 
Sir Joseph Banks's house. But Banks was not favour- 
able, and Arrowsmith, the chart-publisher, "did not like 
the change" because his firm had always used the name 
New Holland in their charts. A Major Rennell was 

* II reste a savoir si ce nom sera adopte par des ge'ographes 
europeens." The paper was printed in the Annates des Voyages by 
Malte-Brun (Paris, 1810). Flinders kept a copy, and his manuscript 
is now in the Melbourne Public Library. It is an exquisite piece of 
caligraphy, perhaps the most beautifully written of all his manu- 

t Historical Records, V., 531. 

t Ibid, VI., 50. 

§ Ibid, VI., 107. 

** Ibid, VI., 274. 

ft Ibid, VII., 52. 

tt Ibid, VII., 275. 



present at one of the meetings, when Flinders thought 
he had converted Sir Joseph. But afterwards he found 
Banks disinclined to sanction the name, and wrote to 
Major Rennell asking whether he remembered the 
conversation. The Major replied (August 15th, 
1812) :* "I certainly think that it was as you say, that 
Australia was the proper name for the continent in 
question; and for the reason you mention. I suppose 
I must have been of that opinion at the time, for I cer- 
tainly think so now. It wants a collective name." 

Two days after the receipt of Major Rennell's 
letter Flinders wrote to Banks, reminding him that he 
was the first person consulted about the name Australia, 
and that he had understood that it was generally 
approved. Bligh had not objected to it. When part 
of the manuscript of the Voyage was submitted to 
Mr. Robert Peel, Under-Secretary for the Colonies 
(afterwards Sir Robert Peel and Prime Minister of 
England), and to Lord Liverpool, the principal Secre- 
tary of State, there had been some discussion respecting 
the inclusion of the Gulf of Carpentaria as part of New 
South Wales, and it was accordingly erased. But no 
objection was raised to the name Australia. Flinders 
fought hard for his word, but did not succeed com- 
pletely. Captain Burney suggested that Terra Aus- 
tralis was a name "more familiar to the public." Banks 
on August 19th withdrew his objection to "the pro- 
priety of calling New Holland and New South Wales 
by the collective name of Terra Australis," and accord- 
ingly as A Voyage to Terra Australis his book ulti- 
mately went forth. The work being published under 
the aegis of the Admiralty, he had to conform to the 
opinion of those who were less sensible of the need for 
an innovation than he was, and it was only in a modest 

* Flinders' Papers. 


footnote that he used the name he preferred. The 
passage in the book wherein he discussed the question 
may be quoted, together with his footnote : 

"The vast regions to which this voyage was princi- 
pally directed comprehend, in the western part, the early 
discoveries of the Dutch, under the name of New 
Holland; and in the east the coasts explored by British 
navigators, and named New South Wales. It has not, 
however, been unusual to apply the first appellation to 
both regions; but to continue this would be almost as 
great an injustice to the British nation, whose seamen 
have had :*o large a share in the discovery as it would 
be to the Dutch were New South Wales to be so ex- 
tended. This appears to have been felt by a neigh- 
bouring, and even rival, nation; whose writers com- 
monly speak of these countries under the general term 
of Terres Australes. In fact, the original name, used 
by the Dutch themselves until some time after Tasman's 
second voyage in 1644, was Terra Australis, or 'Great 
South Land;' and, when it was displaced by 'New 
Holland,' the new term was applied only to the parts 
lying westward of a meridian line passing through 
Arnhem's Land on the north, and near the isles of St 
Francis and St. Peter on the south; all to the eastward, 
including the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria, still 
remained as Terra Australis. This appears from a 
chart published by Thevenot in 1663; which, he says 
'was originally taken from that done in inlaid work 
upon the pavement of the new Stadt-House at Amster- 
dam. ' The same thing is to be inferred from the notes 
of Burgomaster Witsen in 1705 of which there will be 
occasion to speak in the sequel. 

"It is necessary, however, to geographical precision, 
that so soon as New Holland and New South Wales 
were known to form one land, there should be a general 
name applicable to the whole; and this essential point 


having been ascertained in the present voyage, with a 
degree of certainty sufficient to authorise the measure, 
I have, with the concurrence of opinions entitled to 
deference, ventured upon the adoption of the original 
Terra Australis; and of this term I shall hereafter make 
use when speaking of New Holland and New South 
Wales in a collective sense; and when using it in the 
most extensive signification, the adjacent isles, including 
that of Van Diemen, must be understood to be compre- 

"There is no probability that any other detached 
body of land, of nearly equal extent, will ever be found 
in a more southern latitude; the name Terra Australis 
will, therefore, remain descriptive of the geographical 
importance of this country, and its situation on the globe, 
it has antiquity to recommend it; and, having no 
reference to either of the two claiming nations, appears 
to be less objectionable than any other which could have 
been selected." 

Then comes the footnote in which the name Aus- 
tralia is suggested: 

"Had I permitted myself any innovation upon the 
original term, it would have been to convert it into 
Australia; as being more agreeable to the ear, and an 
assimilation to the names of the other great portions of 
the earth." 

The name came into general use after the publica- 
tion of Flinders' book, though it was not always adopted 
in official documents. Governor Macquarie, of New 
South Wales, in a despatch in April, 1817, expressed the 
hope that the name would be authoritatively sanctioned.* 
As already noted, the officials of 1849 drew a 
distinction between New Holland, the mainland, 

* See M. Phillips, A Colonial Autocracy (London, 1909), p. 2, 


and Australia, which included the island of Tas- 
mania; and so Sir Charles Fitzroy, Governor of New- 
South Wales, was styled "Governor-General of Aus- 
tralia," in a commission dated 1851. The proudest of 
all places wherein this name is used is in the forefront 
of the majestic instrument cited as 63 and 64 Vict., cap. 
XII. — "An Act to constitute the Commonwealth of 


Appendix A. 


[In a long letter of about 30,000 words, written to the 
French Minister of Marine from Port Jackson in 1802, 
Captain Baudin described his explorations in Australian 
waters up to that date. The manuscript is in the 
Archives Nationales, Paris, BB4, 995, Marine. It has 
never been published. In this appendix, which relates 
to Chapter XIV. of the book, I translate the portion of 
the letter concerning the meeting of the Investigator and 
Le Geographe in Encounter Bay, with a few notes.] 

"On the 18th, 1 continuing to follow the coast and 
the various coves upon it, we sighted towards the north- 
east a long chain of high mountains, which appeared 
to terminate at the border of the sea. The weariness 
we had for a long time experienced at seeing coasts 
which for the most part were arid, and offered not the 
slightest resource, was dissipated by the expectation 
of coming upon a more promising country. A little 
later, a still more agreeable object of distraction pre- 
sented itself to our view. A square-sailed ship was 
perceived ahead. Nobody on board had any doubt that 
it was Le Naturaliste. As she was tacking south and 
we were tacking north, we approached each other. But 
what was our astonishment when the other vessel 
hoisted a white flag on the mainmast. It was beyond 
doubt a signal of recognition, to which we responded. 

1 That is, the i8th Germinal in the French revolutionary 
calendar; April 8th by the Gregorian calendar. 



A little later, that signal was hauled down, and an 
English ensign and pennant were substituted. 2 We 
replied by hoisting our colours; and we continued to 
advance towards each other. The manoeuvre of the 
English ship indicating that she desired to speak to us, 
we stood towards her. 3 When we got within hail, a 
voice enquired what ship we were. I replied simply 
that we were French. "Is that Captain Baudin?" "Yes, 
it is he." The English captain then saluted me graciously, 
saying "I am very glad to meet you." I replied to the 
same effect, without knowing to whom I was speaking; 
but, seeing that arrangements were being made for 
someone to come on board, I brought the ship to. 

"Mr. Flinders, who commanded the English vessel, 
presented himself. As soon as I learnt his name, I no 
longer doubted that he, like ourselves, was occupied 
with the exploration of the south coast of New Holland ; 
and, in spite of the reserve that he showed upon that 
first visit, I could easily perceive that he had already 
completed a part of it. Having invited him to come 
into my cabin, and finding ourselves alone there, the 
conversation became freer. 4 

"He informed me that he had left Europe about eight 
months after us, and that he was bound for Port Jackson, 
having previously refreshed at the Cape of Good Hope 

"I had no hesitation about giving him information 
concerning what we had been doing upon the coast until 

2 Flinders says: "Our colours being hoisted, she showed a 
French ensign, and afterwards an English jack forward, as we 
did a white flag." 

3 Flinders' own explanation of his manoeuvring is: "We 
veered round as Le Geographe was passing so as to keep our 
broadside to her lest the flag of truce should be a deception." 

4 "Nous trouvant seul, la conversation devint plus libre." 
Flinders says that Brown accompanied him, and went into the 
cabin with him. "No person was present at our conversations 
except Mr. Brown." 


that moment. I pointed out to him defects which I 
had observed in the chart which he had published 5 of 
the strait separating New Holland from Van Diemen's 
Land, etc., etc. 

"Mr. Flinders observed to me that he was not un- 
aware that the chart required to be checked, inasmuch 
as the sketch from which it was prepared had been drawn 
from uncertain information, and that the means em- 
ployed when the discovery was made did not conduce 
to securing exact results. 6 Finally, becoming less 
circumspect than he had hitherto been, he told me that 
he had commenced his work at Cape Leeuwin, and had 
followed the coast to the place where we were met. He 
suggested that our ships should pass the night near 
together, and that early on the following morning he 
should come on board again, and give me some particu- 
lars which would be useful to me. I accepted his pro- 
position with pleasure, and we tacked about at a short 
distance from each other during the night. It was 
seven o'clock in the evening when he returned to his 
ship. 7 

"On the 19th 8 Mr. Flinders came on board at six 
o'clock in the morning. We breakfasted together, 9 

5 "la carte qu'il nous a donne des d£troits." From this it 
appears that Baudin knew Flinders as the author of the chart, 
even while pointing out its defects. Flinders had the impression 
that Baudin did not know him till he was about to leave 
Le Geographe at the end of the second interview 

6 Flinders: "On my pointing out a note upon the chart, ex- 
plaining that the north side of the strait was seen only in an 
open boat by Mr. Bass, who had no good means of fixing either 
latitude or longitude, he appeared surprised, not having before 
paid attention to it." 

7 Flinders : "I told him that some other and more particular 
charts of the strait and its neighbourhood had since been published; 
and that if he would keep company until next morning I would 
bring him a copy with a small memoir belonging to them. This 
was agreed to." 

8 April 9th. 

9 Flinders does not mention this incident. 


and talked about our respective work. He appeared to 
me to have been happier than we had been with respect 
to the discoveries he had made. He told me about a 
large island, about a dozen or fifteen leagues away, 
which had been visited by him. According to his 
account, he staged there six weeks to prepare a chart 
of it; 10 and with the aid of a corvette 11 had explored 
two deep gulfs, the direction of which he sketched for 
me, as well as of his Kangaroo Island, which he had so 
named in consequence of the great quantity of those 
quadrupeds found there. The island,, though not far 
from the continent, did not appear to him to be inhabited. 
"An accident like that which had unfortunately 
happened to us on the coast of Van Diemen's Land had 
overtaken Mr. Flinders. 12 He had lost a boat and eight 
men. His ship was also short of stores, and he was not 
without uneasiness as to what would happen. 

"Before we separated the Captain asked me if I had 
any knowledge of an island which was said to exist to 
the north of the Bass Strait islands. I replied that I 
had not, inasmuch as, having followed the coast fairly 
closely after leaving the Promontory as far as Western- 
port, I had not met with any land placed in the position 

10 A mistake; Flinders was at Kangaroo Island only six 

11 P£ron also had the erroneous impression that the 
Investigator had been accompanied by a corvette, which foundered 
in Spencer's Gulf, and so wrote in his Voyage de Decouvertes. 
Baudin must have confused what Flinders told him about the drown- 
ing of Thistle and the boat's crew, with an idea of his own that this 
boat was a consort of the Investigator as Le Naturaliste was of 
Le Geographe. 

12 Baudin was referring to a boat party of his own, consist- 
ing of Boullanger, one of his hydrographers, a lieutenant and 
eight sailors. They had gone out in a boat to chart a portion 
of the coast which Le Geographe could not reach. They did 
not return, and Baudin supposed them to have been lost. But 
they were in fact picked up by the sealing brig Snozv-Harrington 
from Sydney, which afterwards sighted Le Naturaliste, and 
handed the men over to her. 


which he indicated. 13 He appeared to be well pleased 
with my response, doubtless in the hope of being the 
first to discover it. Perhaps Le Naturaliste, in searching 
for us in the Strait, will have discovered it. 14 At the 
moment of his departure, Mr. Flinders presented me 
with several new charts, published by Arrowsmith, and 
a printed memoir by himself, dealing with discoveries 
in the strait, the north coast of Van Diemen's Land, the 
east coast, etc., etc. He also invited me to sail, like 
himself, for Port Jackson, the resources of which he 
perhaps exalted too highly, if I had to remain long in 
these seas. At eight o'clock we 15 separated. He sailed 
south and we went to the west." 

13 What Flinders asked Baudin was whether he had any 
"knowledge concerning a large island said to lie in the western 
entrance of Bass Strait. But he had not seen it and seemed 
to doubt much of its existence." The reference was to King 
Island. Baudin marked on his chart, in consequence of this 
enquiry, an island "believed to exist," guessing at its situation 
and placing it wrongly; though he subsequently stayed at King 
Island himself. 

14 This sentence is interesting, as showing that Baudin wrote 
this part of his letter to the Minister at the time, not at Port 
Jackson weeks later. If the sentence had been written later, 
he would not have said that Le Naturaliste would perhaps sight 
the island. He by then knew that she did not. 

15 Flinders: "I returned with Mr. Brown on board the 
Investigator at half-past-eight in the morning, and we then 
separated from Le Geographe; Captain Baudin's course being 
directed to the north-west and ours to the southward." 

Appendix B. 


[The following is a fairly literal translation of Peron's 
report on Port Jackson, furnished to General Decaen at 

Port N.-O., 20th Frimaire, 
Year 12 16 
Citizen Captain-General, 

Fifteen years ago England transported, at great 
expense, a numerous population to the eastern coast of 
New Holland. At that time this vast continent was 
still almost entirely unknown. These southern lands 
and the numerous archipelagoes of the Pacific were 
invaded by the English, who had solemnly proclaimed 
themselves sovereign over the whole dominion extending 
from Cape York to the southern extremity of New 
Holland, that is to say, from 10° 37' S., to 43° 39' S. 
latitude. In longitude their possesions had been fixed 
as reaching from 105° W. of Greenwich to the middle 
of the Pacific Ocean, including all the archipelagos with 
which it is strewn. 17 

Note especially in this respect that in the formal deed 
of annexation no exact boundary was fixed on the Pacific 
Ocean side. This omission seems to have been the result 

16 i.e., Port North-West (Port Louis), December II, 1802. 

17 This is a literal translation of Peron's statement, which is 
obviously confused and wrong. 105° W. long, is east of Easter 
Island, as well as being an "exact boundary" in the Pacific, 
which, Peron goes on to say, did not exist. The probability is 
that he gives here a muddled reproduction of the boundaries 
actually fixed by Phillip's commission — "westward as far as the 
135th degree of east longitude . . . including all the islands 
adjacent in the Pacific Ocean." [Mr. Jose's note.] 



of astute policy ; the English Government thus prepared 
for itself an excuse for claiming, at the right time and 
place, all the islands which in the future may be, or 
actually are, occupied by the Spaniards — who thus find 
themselves England's next-door neighbours. 

So general a project of encroachment alarmed, as 
it must, all the nations of Europe. The sacrifices made 
by England to maintain this colony redoubled their 
suspicions. The Spanish expedition of Admiral Mala- 
spina 18 had not fulfilled the expectations of its Govern- 
ment. Europe was still ignorant of the nature of the 
English settlement; its object was unknown; its rapid 
growth was not even suspected. 

Always vigilant in regard to whatever may humiliate 
the eternal rival of our nation, the First Consul, soon 
after the revolution of the 18th Brumaire, 19 decided upon 
our expedition. 20 His real object was such that it was 
indispensable to conceal it from the Governments of 
Europe, and especially from the Cabinet of St. James's. 
We must have their unanimous consent; and that we 
might obtain this, it was necessary that, strangers in 
appearance to all political designs, we should occupy 

18 Two Spanish ships, commanded by Don Alexandro 
Malaspina, visited Sydney in April, 1793, They had left Cadiz 
on an exploring and scientific expedition in July, 1789. 

19 It was on the 18th Brumaire (November 9th, 1799) that 
Bonaparte overthrew the Directory by a coup-d'etat, and 
became First Consul of the French Republic. 

20 P£ron's statement is quite wrong. The matter of des- 
patching an expedition to Australia had been considered and 
proposed to the Government by the professors of the Museum 
two years before the coup-d'etat of Brumaire: before therefore 
Bonaparte had anything to do with the Government. Their 
letter to the Minister, making this proposal, is dated 12th 
Thermidor, year 6 — that is, July 31st, 1797. Bonaparte was then 
a young general commanding the army of Italy. The project 
was taken up by the Institute of France, and Bonaparte, as First 
Consul, sanctioned the expedition in May, 1800. There is no 
evidence that he ever gave a thought to the matter until it was 
brought before him by the Institute. 


ourselves only with natural history collections. Such 
a large expenditure had been incurred to augment the 
collections of the Museum of the Republic that 
the object of our voyage could not but appear 
to all the world as a natural consequence of the 
previous action of our Government. It was far from 
being the case, however, that our true purpose had to 
be confined to that class of work; and if sufficient time 
permitted it would be very easy for me, citizen Captain- 
General, to demonstrate to you that all our natural 
history researches, extolled with so much ostentation by 
the Government, were merely a pretext for its enterprise, 
and were intended to assure for it the most general and 
complete success. So that our expedition, so much 
criticised by faultfinders, so much neglected by the 
former administrators of this colony, was in its principle, 
in its purpose, in its organization, one of those brilliant 
and important conceptions which ought to make our 
present Government for ever illustrious. Why was it 
that, after having done so much for the success of these 
designs, the execution of them was confided to a man 
utterly unfitted in all possible respects to conduct them 
to their proper issue? 

You have asked me, General, to communicate to 
you such information as I have been able to procure 
upon the colony of Port Jackson. A work of that kind 
would be as long as it would be important ; and, prepared 
as I conceive it ought to be, and as I hope it will be when 
presented to the French Government, it would fix our 
attention to some useful purpose upon that growing 
snare of a redoubtable power. Unfortunately, duty has 
made demands upon me until to-day, and now that I 
find myself a little freer our departure is about to 
take place. Moreover, all the information we have col- 
lected upon the regions in question is deposited in the 
chest which has to be forwarded, sealed, to the Govern- 


ment, and without access to this the notes that I should 
desire to furnish to you cannot be completed. Never- 
theless, in order to contribute as far as possible to your 
enlightenment on the subject, I take the liberty of furnish- 
ing you with some particulars of the new establish- 
ment. In asking you to excuse, on account of the 
circumstances, faults both of style and of presentation, I 
venture to assure you, General, that you can rely upon 
my jealous exactitude in fulfilling as far as was in my 
power the intention of the Government of my country. 
I have neglected no means of procuring all the informa- 
tion that as far as I could foresee would be of interest. 
I was received in the house of the Governor with much 
consideration. He and his secretary spoke our language 
well. The commandant of the troops of New South 
Wales, Mr. Paterson, a member of the Royal Society of 
London, a very distinguished savant, always treated me 
with particular regard. I was received in his house, as 
one might say, as a son. I have through him known 
all the officials of the colony. The surgeon, a dis- 
tinguished man, Mr. Thompson, honoured me with his 
friendship. Mr. Grimes, the surveyor of the colony, Mr. 
Palmer the commissary-general of the Government, Mr. 
Marsden, a clergyman of Parramatta, and a cultivator 
as wealthy as he is discerning, were all capable of 
furnishing me with valuable information. My functions 
on board permitted me to hazard the asking of a large 
number of questions which would have been indiscreet 
on the part of another, particularly on the part of 
soldiers. I have, in a word, known at Port Jackson all 
the principal people of the colony, in all vocations, and 
each of them has furnished, unsuspectingly, information 
as valuable as it is new. Finally, I made with Mr. 
Paterson very long excursions into the interior of the 
country. I saw most of the best farms, and I assure 
you that I have gathered everywhere interesting ideas 


upon things, which I have taken care to make exact as 

ist. — Present Establishments of the English. 

Whilst in Europe they are spoken of as the 
colony of Botany Bay, as a matter of fact there is no 
establishment there. Botany Bay is a humid, marshy, 
rather sterile place, not healthy, and the anchorage for 
vessels is neither good nor sure. 

Port Jackson, thirteen leagues from Botany Bay, 
is unquestionably one of the finest ports in the world. 
It was in these terms that Governor Phillip spoke of it, 
and certainly he did not exaggerate when he added that 
a thousand ships of the line could easily manoeuvre 
within it. The town of Sydney has been founded in the 
heart of this superb harbour. It is already considerable in 
extent, and, like its population, is growing rapidly. Here 
reside the Governor and all the principal Government 
officers. The environs of Sydney are sandy and not 
very fertile ; in almost all of them there is a scarcity of 
water during the hot summer months. 

Parramatta is the largest town founded by the 
English. It is in the interior of the country, about six 
leagues from Sydney, from which it can be reached by 
a small river called the Parramatta River. Small vessels 
can proceed close to the town ; larger ones have to dis- 
charge some distance away. A very fine road leads 
overland from Sydney to Parramatta. Some very good 
houses have been built here and there along the road. 
Already people who have made considerable fortunes 
are to be found there. The land around Parramatta is 
of much better quality than that at Sydney. The country 
has been cleared to a considerable extent; and grazing 
in particular presents important advantages. 

Toongabbie, further inland, three or four leagues 
from Parramatta, is still more fertile. Its pastures 


are excellent. It is there that the flocks belonging to the 
Government have been established. 

Hawkesbury, more than 60 miles from Sydney, is 
in the vicinity of the Blue Mountains. It is the richest 
and most fruitful of the English establishments. It may 
be regarded as the granary of the colony, being capable 
by itself of supplying nearly all the wants of the settle- 
ment. The depth of soil in some parts is as much as 
80 feet; and it is truly prodigious in point of fertility. 
These incalculable advantages are due to the alluvial 
deposits of the Hawkesbury River, which descends in 
cascades from the summits of the Blue Mountains, and 
precipitates itself upon the plain loaded with a thick mud 
of a quality eminently suitable for promoting vegetable 
growth. Unfortunately with benefits such as are con- 
ferred by the Nile it unites its inconveniences. It is 
subject to frightful floods, which overwhelm everything. 
Houses, crops, and flocks — everything is destroyed unless 
men and animals save themselves by very rapid flight. 
These unexpected floods are sometimes so prodigious 
that the water has been known to rise 60 and even 80 
feet above the normal level. But what gives a great 
importance to the town of Hawkesbury is the facility 
with which large ships can reach it by the river of which 
I have just spoken. This part of New Holland will be 
a source of rapid and very large fortunes. 

Castle Hill is a new establishment in the interior 
of New Holland, distant 21 miles from Parramatta, from 
which it is reached by a superb road, which traverses 
thick forests. Allotments of land are crowded round 
this place, and the clearances are so considerable that 
for more than a league all round the town we could see 
the forest grants being burnt off. 

Richmond Hill, towards the Hawkesbury, is 
a more considerable place than the last mentioned, and 
is in a fertile situation. 


So, General, it will be seen that this colony, which 
people in Europe still believe to be relegated to the 
muddy marshes of Botany Bay, is daily absorbing more 
and more of the interior of the continent. Cities are being 
erected, which, at present in their infancy, present 
evidences of future grandeur. Spacious and well-con- 
structed roads facilitate communication with all parts, 
whilst important rivers render access by water still 
more convenient and less expensive. 

But the English Government is no longer confining 
its operations to the eastern coast of New Holland. 
Westernport, on the extreme south, beyond Wilson's 
Promontory, is already engaging its attention. At the 
time of our departure a new establishment there was 
in contemplation. The Government is balancing the 
expediency of founding a new colony there or at Port 
Phillip, to the north. 21 In any case, it is indubitable, 
from what I have heard the Governor say — it is indubi- 
table, I say, that such a step will soon be taken. Indeed, 
whatever advantage Port Jackson may possess, it suffers 
from a grave disadvantage in the narrowness of its entry. 
Two frigates could by themselves blockade the most 
numerous fleet within. Westernport would in certain 
eventualities offer an advantageous position. Moreover, 
the navigation of Bass Strait is very dangerous. The 
winds there are terrible. Before negotiating the strait, 
ships from Europe, fatigued by a long voyage, require 
succour and shelter. The new establishment will be able 
to accommodate them. A third reason, and no doubt 
the most important, is that the English in spite of all 
their efforts, in spite of the devotion of several of their 
citizens, in spite of the sacrifices made by the Govern- 

21 "Le Port Phillip dans le nord de ce dernier." Pe'ron's 
information was correct. King had in May, 1802, made a recom- 
mendation to the British Government that a settlement should 
be founded at Port Phillip. The reasons, also, are stated accu- 
rately by him. 


ment, have not yet been able to traverse the redoubt- 
able barrier of the Blue Mountains and to penetrate into 
the west of New Holland. An establishment on the part 
of the coast that I have just mentioned would guarantee 
them success in their efforts in that direction. At all 
events it is indubitable that the establishment to which 
I have referred will be immediately founded, if indeed 
such is not already the case, as appears very probable 
from the letter which the Governor wrote to our com- 
mandant in that regard a few days after our departure 
from Port Jackson. 

So then, the English, already masters of the eastern 
coast of New Holland, now wish to occupy the immense 
extent of the west and south-west coasts which contain 
very fine harbours, namely, that which they call Western- 
port, Port Phillip, Port Flinders 22 at the head of one of 
the great gulfs of the south-west, Port Esperance, 
discovered by Dentrecasteaux, King George's Sound, etc. 

But still more, General, their ambition, always 
aspiring, is not confined to New Holland itself, vast as 
it may be. Van Diemen's Land, and especially the 
magnificent Dentrecasteaux Channel, have excited their 
cupidity. Another establishment has probably been 
founded there since our departure from Port Jackson. 
Take a glance at the detailed chart of that part of Van 
Diemen's Land. Look at the cluster of bays and 
harbours to be found there, and judge for yourself 
whether it is likely that that ambitious nation will 
permit any other power to occupy them. Therefore, 
numerous preparations had been made for the occupa- 
tion of that important point. The authorities were only 
awaiting a frigate, the Porpoise, 2 * to transport colonists 
and provisions. That establishment is probably in 

22 Pe'ron probably meant the present Port Augusta in Spencer's 
Gulf; but the name Port Flinders was his own. 

23 Peron spells the name as it sounded to him, La Poraperse. 


existence to-day. 24 Several reasons will have determined 
it; 1st. — The indispensable necessity, for the English, 
oi keeping away from their establishments in that part 
of the world rivals and neighbours as redoubtable as the 
French; 2nd. — The desire of removing from occupation 
by any other nation those impregnable ports whence 
their important trade with New Zealand might be des- 
troyed and their principal establishment itself be event- 
ually shaken ; 3rd. — The fertility of the soil in that part of 
Van Diemen's Land, and above all the hope of discover- 
ing in the vast granite plateaux, which seems here to 
enclose the world, mines of precious metals or some new 
substance unknown to the stupid aboriginals of the 

I will not refer in detail to the Furneaux and 
Hunter's Islands, to King Island and Maria Island. Every- 
where the British flag is flown with pride. Everywhere 
profitable fisheries are established. Seals of various 
species, to be found upon these islands, open up a new 
source of wealth and power to the English nation. 

But New Zealand is especially advantageous to 
them in that regard. There is the principal seat of the 
wealth of their new colony. Thence a large number of 
ships sail annually for Europe laden with whale oil. 
Never, as the English themselves acknowledge, was a 
fishery so lucrative and so easy. The number of vessels 
engaged in it is increasing rapidly. Four years ago there 
were but four or five. Last year there were seventeen. 25 
I shall have occasion to return to this subject. 

Let us sum up what has been said concerning the 
English establishments in this part of the world. Masters 

24 Again, Peron's information was correct. A settlement on 
the Derwent, close to Dentrecasteaux Channel, was ordered to 
be founded in March, 1803, and the Porpoise, with the Lady Nelson 
as tender, was employed to carry colonists and supplies thither. 

25 It will be remembered that Bass intended to engage in 
the New Zealand fishery. Cf. chapter IX. 


of the east coast of New Holland, we see them rapidly 
penetrating the interior of the country, clearing pressed 
forward on all sides, towns multiplying. Everywhere 
there is hope of abundance of great agricultural wealth. 
The south coast is menaced by coming encroachments, 
which, perhaps, are by now effected. All the ports of the 
south-west will be occupied successively, and much 
sooner than is commonly thought. Van Diemen's Land 
and all the neighbouring islands either are to be occupied 
or already are so. New Zealand offers to them, together 
with excellent harbours, an extraordinarily abundant 
and lucrative fishery. In a word, everything in these 
vast regions presents a picture of unequalled activity, 
unlimited foresight, swollen ambition, and a policy as 
deep as it is vigilant. 

Well then — come forward now to the middle of these 
vast seas, so long unknown ; we shall see everywhere the 
same picture reproduced, with the same effects. Cast a 
glance over that great southern ocean. Traverse all those 
archipelagos which, like so many stepping-stones, are 
scattered between New Holland and the west coast of 
America. It is by their means that England hopes to be 
able to stretch her dominion as far as Peru. Norfolk 
Island has for a long time been occupied. The cedar 
that it produces, coupled with the great fertility of the 
soil, render it an important possession. It contains 
already between 1,500 and 1,800 colonists. No settle- 
ment has as yet been founded in any of the other islands, 
but researches are being pursued in all parts. The 
English land upon all the islands and establish an active 
commerce, by means of barter, with the natives. The 
Sandwich Islands, Friendly Islands, Loyalty Islands, 26 
Navigator Islands, 27 Marquesas and Mendore Islands all 
furnish excellent salt provisions. Ships, employed in 

26 New Caledonian Group. 
27 Samoan Group. 


trade, frequently arrive at Port Jackson; and it increases 
every day, proof positive of the advantage that is 
derived from it. 

The Government is particularly occupied with 
endeavouring to discover upon some one of these archi- 
pelagos a strong military post, a species of arsenal, 
nearer to the coasts of Peru and Chili. 28 It 
is towards these two points that the English 
Government appears to be especially turning its eyes. 
They are quite aware of the feebleness of the Spaniards 
in South America. They are above all aware that the 
unconquered Chilians are constantly making unexpected 
attacks, that like so many Bedouins they appear un- 
awares with a numerous cavalry upon places where the 
Spaniards are most feeble, committing robberies and 
outrages in all directions before sufficient forces have 
been collected to repulse them. Then they retire with a 
promptitude which does not permit of their being 
followed to their savage fastnesses, which are unknown 
to the Spaniards themselves — retreats whence they very 
soon reappear, to commit fresh massacres. (See the 
Voyage of Laperouse). The English, to whom nothing 
that occurs in those important regions is unknown, are 
equally aware that it is simply a deficiency in arms 
and ammunition which prevents the redoubtable 
Chilians from pushing much farther their attacks against 
the Spaniards. It is to the furnishing of these means 
that the English Government are at the present moment 
confining their enterprise. A very active contraband 
trade is calculated to enable them to carry out their per- 
fidious ends, whilst at the same time providing a profit- 
able market for the produce of their manufacturers. 
Another manner in which they torment the Spaniards of 
Peru is by despatching a swarm of pirates to these 
seas. During the last war very rich prizes were captured 

28 This statement was entirely false. 


by simple whaling vessels, and you can judge what 
attacks of this kind will be like when they are directed 
and sustained by the English Government itself. 

Their hopes in regard to the Spanish possessions are 
heightened, and their projects are encouraged, by the 
general direction of the winds in these seas. A happy ex- 
perience has at length taught the English that the prevail- 
ing wind, that which blows strongest and most constantly, 
is the west wind. Determined by these considerations 
(would you believe it, General?) the English nowadays, 
instead of returning to Europe from Port Jackson by 
traversing Bass Strait and doubling the Cape of Good 
Hope, turn their prows eastwards, abandon themselves 
to their favourite wind, traverse rapidly the great ex- 
panse of the South Seas, double Cape Horn, and so do 
not reach England until they have made the circuit of 
the globe ! Consequently those voyages round the world, 
which were formerly considered so hazardous, and with 
which are associated so many illustrious names, have be- 
come quite familiar to English sailors. Even their fishing 
vessels accomplish the navigation of the globe just as 
safely as they would make a voyage from Europe to the 
Antilles. That circumstance is not so unimportant as 
may at first appear. The very idea of having circumnavi- 
gated the globe exalts the enthusiasm of English sailors. 
What navigation would not seem to them ordinary after 
voyages which carry with them great and terrible 
associations? Anyhow — and this is a most unfortunate 
circumstance for the Spaniards — it is indubitable that 
the fact of the constancy of the west wind must facilitate 
extraordinarily projects of attack and invasion on the 
part of the English, and everything sustains the belief 
that they will count for much in the general plan of the 
establishment in New Holland, Therefore the English 
Government appears day by day to take more interest 
in the colony. It redoubles sacrifices of all kinds. It en- 


deavours in every way to increase the population as much 
as possible. Hardly a month passes but there arrives 
some ship freighted by it, laden with provisions, goods, 
and above all with men and women, some transported 
people, who have to serve practically as slaves, others 
free immigrants, cultivators, to whom concessions will 
be granted. Perhaps at first you will be astonished to 
learn that honest men voluntarily transport themselves 
with their families to the extremity of the world, to live 
in a country which is still savage, and which was origin- 
ally, and is still actually, occupied by brigands who have 
been thrust from the breast of society. But your 
astonishment will cease when you learn under what con- 
ditions such individuals consent to exile themselves to 
these shores, and what advantages they are not slow in 
deriving from a sacrifice which must always be painful. 
In the first place, before their departure from 
Europe, a sufficient sum is allowed to each individual to 
provide for the necessities of a long voyage. On board 
the vessel which transports them to Sydney a price is 
fixed for the sustenance of the immigrant and his family, 
if he has any. Upon his landing at Port Jackson con- 
cessions are granted to him in proportion to the number 
of individuals comprised in his family. A number of 
convicts (that is the name they give the transported 
persons), in proportion to the extent of the concessions 
granted, are placed at his disposal. A house is con- 
structed for him ; he is provided with all necessary furni- 
ture and household utensils, and all the clothes he needs ; 
they grant him all the seed he needs to sow his land, 
all the tools he needs to till it, and one or more pairs 
of all domestic animals and several kinds of poultry. 
Besides, they feed him, his family, and his assigned 
servants during eighteen months. He is completely 
sustained during that period ; and for the next twelve 
months half rations are allowed to him. At the end of 


that time the produce of his land is, with reason, expected 
to be sufficient for his requirements, and the Govern- 
ment leave him to his own resources. 

During five years he remains free of all contribution, 
accumulating the produce of land all the more prolific 
because it is virgin. At the end of that time a slight 
repayment is required by the Government. This gradu- 
ally and slightly increases as time goes on. But mark 
here, General, the profound wisdom of the English 
Government, that enlightened policy which guides all 
their enterprises and assures them success. If the new 
immigrant during these five years has shown himself 
to be a diligent and intelligent cultivator; if his clear- 
ings have been well extended and his stock is managed 
with prudence; if the produce of his land has increased 
rapidly — then, so far from finding himself a debtor to 
the Government, his holding is declared to be his own, and, 
as a recompense, fresh concessions are made to him, 
additional servants are assigned to him, his immunity from 
contributions is prolonged, and additional assistance of all 
sorts is extended to him. It is to these extensive and well- 
considered sacrifices that it is necessary to attribute the 
fine farms that daily increase in number in the midst of 
what was recently wild and uncultivated forest. Activity, 
intelligence and application conduce here more rapidly than 
elsewhere to fortune; and already several of the earlier 
immigrants have become very wealthy proprietors. Emu- 
lation of the noblest kind is stimulated everywhere. Experi- 
ments of all kinds are made and multiplied. The Govern- 
ment encourages them, and generously recompenses those 
who have succeeded. 

What still further proves the particular interest 
which the English Government takes in the colony is 
the enormous expense incurred in procurring commodities 
for the new colonists. Nearly everything is furnished 
by the Government. Vast depots are filled with clothes 


and fabrics of all kinds and qualities, from the com- 
monest to the finest. The sinplest furniture and house- 
hold goods are to be found alongside the most eiegant. 
Thus the inhabitants are able to buy, at prices below 
those ruling in England, 29 everything necessary to not 
only the bare wants of life, but also its comforts and 

Anxious to maintain the settlement on a firm and un- 
shakeable basis, it is to agriculture, the source of the 
true wealth of nations, that the English Government 
endeavours to direct the tastes of the inhabitants 
of the new colony. Different kinds of cattle have been 
imported, and all thrive remarkably well. The better 
kinds, so far from losing quality, gain in size and weight. 
But the improvement in sheep is especially astonish- 
ing. Never was there a country so favourable to these 
animals as the part of New Holland now occupied by the 
British. Whether it be the effect of the climate or, as I 
think, the peculiar quality of the herbage (almost wholly 
aromatic), certain it is that the flocks of sheep have multi- 
plied enormously. It is true that the finest breeds have 
been imported by the Government. At first, the choicest 
kinds of English and Irish sheep were naturalised. Then 
breeds from Bengal and the Cape of Good Hope were 
introduced. Finally, the good fortune which seems to 
have conspired with the enterprise of our rivals 
furnished them with several pairs of merinos from Spain, 
which the Spanish Government at great expense were 
sending to the Viceroy of Peru, upon a ship which was 
captured upon the coast of that country by an English 
vessel out of Port Jackson, and which were brought 

29 This statement is surprising, but probably true of part of 
the period when P£ron was in Sydney. There was then a glut 
of goods, as Bass found to his cost. He had to sell commodities 
brought out in the Venus at 50 per cent, below their proper 



thither, much to the satisfaction of the Governor, who 
neglected nothing to derive the fullest possible advan- 
tage from a present valuable to the colony. His 
endeavours have not been in vain. This species, like the 
others, has improved much, and there is reason to believe 
that in a few years Port Jackson will be able to supply 
valuable and abundant material for the manufacturers 
of England. What is most astonishing is that the Indian 
sheep, which naturally produce short, coarse hair instead 
of wool, in the course of three or four generations in 
this country produce a wool that can hardly be dis- 
tinguished from that furnished by English breeds, or 
even Spanish. I have seen at the Governor's house an 
assortment of these differnt kinds of wool, which were 
to be sent to Lord Sydney, and I assure you that it would 
be difficult to find finer samples. In my excursions with 
Mr. Paterson, Mr. Marsden and Mr. Cox, I have seen 
their flocks, and really one could not but admire in that 
regard the incalculable influence of the industry of man, 
so long as it is encouraged and stimulated by enlightened 
and just administrators. 

Another source of production which appears to 
offer great advantages to the English is that of hemp. 
In this country it is as fine in quality as it is abundant, 
and several persons whose testimony is beyond 
suspicion have assured me that New Holland, before 
many years have passed, will herself be able to furnish 
to the British Navy all the hemp that it requires, thus 
freeing England from the considerable tribute that she 
pays at present in that regard to the north of Europe. 

The climate also appears to be favourable to the 
cultivation of the vine. Its latitude, little different from 
that of the Cape of Good Hope, combined with its 
temperature, lead the Government to hope for great 
advantages from the introduction of this plant to the 
continent of New Holland. Furthermore, French 


vignerons have been introduced at great expense to pro- 
mote this object. It is true that their first attempts 
have not been very happy, but the lack of success is due 
entirely to the obstinacy of the English Governor, who, 
in spite of the representations of these men, compelled 
them to make their first plantations upon the side of 
a small, pleasant terrace forming a kind of semi-circle 
round Government House at Parramatta. This was, 
unfortunately, exposed to the north-west winds, burning 
winds like the mistral of Italy and Provence, the 
khamsin of Egypt, etc. The French vignerons whom 
I had occasion to see at Parramatta, in company with 
the Lieutenant-Governor, Mr. Paterson, assured me that 
they had found a piece of country very favourable to 
their new plantations, and that they hoped for the 
greatest success from their fresh efforts. Choice plants 
had been imported from Madeira and the Cape. 

In all the English establishments on these coasts 
traces of grand designs for the future are evident. The 
mass of the people, being originally composed of the un- 
fortunate and of wrong-doers, might have propagated 
immorality and corruption, if the Government had not 
taken in good time means to prevent such a sad result. 
A house was founded in the early days of the settlement 
for the reception of young girls whose parents were too 
poor and too constrained in their circumstances at the 
commencement of their sojourn there to be able to 
devote much care to them ; while if parents, when eman- 
cipated, so conduct themselves that their example or 
their course of life is likely to have an evil effect on their 
offspring, the children are taken from them and placed in 
the home to which I have referred. There they pursue 
regular studies ; they are taught useful arts appropriate 
to their sex; they are instructed in reading, writing, 
arithmetic, sewing, etc. Their teachers are chosen with 
much care, and the wife of the Governor himself is 


charged with the supervision of that honourable establish- 
ment, a supervision in which she is assisted by the wife 
of the commandant of the troops. Each or both of them 
visit every day their young family, as they themselves 
call it. They neglect nothing to ensure the maintenance 
of good conduct, the soundness of the education and the 
quality of the provisions. I have several times accom- 
panied these admirable ladies to the establishment, and 
have on every occasion been moved by their anxious 
solicitude and their touching care. 

When these young girls arrive at marriageable age 
they are not abandoned by the Government. The follow- 
ing is the sagacious and commendable manner in which 
their establishment in life is provided for. Among the 
free persons who come to Port Jackson are many men 
who are not yet married. The same is the case with some 
of those who by good conduct have earned their freedom. 
When one of those young men wishes to take a worthy 
wife, he presents himself to the Governor's wife, who, 
after having obtained information concerning his 
character, permits him to visit her young flock. If he 
fixes his choice upon someone, he informs the Governor's 
wife, who, after consulting the tastes and inclinations of 
the young person, accords or refuses her consent. When 
a marriage is arranged, the Government endows the 
young girl by means of concessions, assigned servants, 
etc.; and these unions have already become the nursery 
of a considerable number of good and happy homes. 
It is undoubtedly an admirable policy, and one which 
has amply rewarded the English Government for the 
sacrifices made to support it. 

The defence of the country has not up to the 
present been very formidable, and has not needed to be, 
on account of the ignorance which prevails in Europe 
respecting the nature of this colony. The English 
Government is at the present moment directing men's 


minds towards agriculture. It has not, however, 
neglected to provide what the physical condition of the 
land and the nature of its establishment demand. Two 
classes of men are much to be feared at present: first, 
the criminals, condemned for the most part to a long 
servitude, harshly treated, compelled to the roughest and 
most fatiguing labour. That infamous class, the vile 
refuse of civilised society, always ready to commit new 
crimes, needs to be ceaselessly restrained by force and 
violence. The English Government therefore maintains 
a strong police. It is so efficient that in the midst of 
that infamous canaille the most perfect security reigns 
everywhere, and — what may appear paradoxical to those 
who do not know the details of the administration of the 
colony — fewer robberies are committed than in a 
European town of equal population. As to murder, I 
have never heard tell of a crime of the kind being com- 
mitted there, nor, indeed, did I hear of one occurring since 
the foundation of the colony. Nevertheless, the first con- 
sideration entails the maintenance of a very consider- 
able force ; and with equal foresight and steadiness 
the Government has taken precautions against the 
efforts of these bandits. A second class of society, 
more formidable still (also much more respect- 
able, but having most to complain about, and the 
most interesting class for us), is composed of legions 
of the unfortunate Irish, whom the desire of freeing 
their country from the British yoke caused to arm in 
concert with us against the English Government. Over- 
whelmed by force, they were treated with pitiless rigour. 
Nearly all those who took up arms in our favour were 
mercilessly transported, and mixed with thieves and 
assassins. The first families of Ireland count their 
friends and relations upon these coasts of New 
Holland. Persecuted by that most implacable of all 
kinds of hatred, the hatred born of national animosity 


and differing convictions, they are cruelly treated, and 
all the more so because they are feared. Abandoned to 
themselves, it is felt, they can do nothing, and the 
Government gains several interesting advantages from 
their residence in this country. First, a population as 
numerous as it is valiant is fixed upon these shores. 
Secondly, nearly all being condemned to a servitude more 
or less long, they provide many strong arms for the 
laborious work of clearing. Thirdly, the mixing of so 
many brave men with criminals seems to obliterate the 
character of the settlement and to provide, by the reten- 
tion of a crowd of honest men, some sort of a defence 
against the opprobrium cast upon it. Fourthly, the 
Government has relieved itself in Europe of a number 
of enraged and daring enemies. At the same time, one 
must admit, this policy has its defects. The 
Irish, ruled by a sceptre of iron, are quiet to- 
day. But if ever the Government of our country, 
alarmed by the rapidly increasing strength of this colony, 
should formulate the project of taking or destroying it, 
at the mere mention of the French name every Irish arm 
would be raised. We had a very striking example when 
we first arrived at Port Jackson. Upon the appearance 
of the French flag in the harbour the alarm in 
the country was general. We were again at 
war with England. They regarded our second 
ship, 30 which had been separated from us and 
compelled to seek shelter ^at Port Jackson, as a French 
ship of war. At the name the Irish commenced to flock 
together. Everywhere they raised their bowed fore- 
heads, bent under an iron rule; and, if their mistake 
had not been so rapidly dispelled, a general rising would 
have taken place amongst them. One or two were put 
to death on that occasion, and several were deported to 
Norfolk Island. In any case, that formidable portion 

30 Le Naturaliste. 


of the population will always compel the English to 
maintain many troops upon this continent, until, at all 
events, time and inter-marriage shall have cicatrized the 
recent wounds of the poor Irish and softened their 

The Government, however, appears to feel that con- 
siderably larger forces are required than are now avail- 
able. At the time of our departure the regiment form- 
ing the garrison at Port Jackson did not number more 
than 800. But some were being continually removed to 
India, and to replace them 5,000 men were expected. 
The news of the war must have led to the changing of 
these dispositions, because the troops, which were to 
have been transported on warships, were drawn from 
Europe, and probably the English Government will 
have been careful not to despatch so considerable a 
force to New Holland in the critical situation in which 
it now finds itself. Moreover, General, do not believe 
that so many troops are indispensable to the security of 
the coasts of New Holland, but rather consider the 
advantages that the English nation is likely to draw from 
its establishments in that part of the world. The climate 
of India, inimical to newcomers from Europe, is still more 
so to these British regiments, drawn from the frosty 
counties of the north of England and from the icy realms 
of Scotland. A considerable loss of men results from their 
almost immediate transportation to the burning plains of 
India. Forced to look after a population which has little 
affinity with its immense possessions in both hemispheres, 
England has always set an example of great sacrifices 
for all that can tend to the conservation of the health 
of its people. The new colony of Port Jackson will 
serve in the future as a depot for troops destined for 
India. Actually the whole of the territory occupied 
up to the present is extremely salubrious. Not a 
single malady endemic to the country has yet been ex- 


perienced. The whole population enjoys the best of 
health. The children especially are handsome and 
vigorous, though the temperature at certain times is 
very high. We ourselves experienced towards the 
close of our visit very hot weather, though we were 
there in the months of Fructidor, Vendemiaire and 
Brumaire' 31 nearly corresponding to our European spring. 
The temperature of New Holland, rather more than a 
mean between those of England and India, ought to be 
valuable in preparing for the latter country that large 
body of soldiers which the Government despatches every 
year to Bengal, the Coromandel coast, Malabar, etc., etc. 
Consequently the loss of men will be much less, and you 
will easily realise the advantage that will accrue to a 
power like England, when it contemplates the invasion, 
with a mediocre population, of archipelagos, islands, 
and even continents. 

Note: — This portion of New Holland appears to 
owe its salubriousness : — 

(1) To a situation resembling that of the Cape of 
Good Hope (Port Jackson is in about latitude 34°). 

(2) To the nature of the soil, which is very dry, 
especially round Sydney; 

(3) To the nature of the vegetation, which is not 
vigorous enough to maintain a noxious stagnation in the 
lower strata of the atmosphere; 

(4) To the great, or rather enormous, quantity of 
aromatic plants which constitute the principal part of 
the vegetation, including even the largest species ; 

(5) To the vicinity of the Blue Mountains, the 
elevation of which contributes largely to maintain a 
certain salutary freshness in the atmosphere ; 

(6) To the remarkable constancy of the light fresh 

31 From Fructidor to Brumaire would be from September 
22nd to December 20th. 



breezes which blow from the south-east towards the 
middle of the day. 

I have not yet finished the account of the important 
advantages that England draws from this colony. If 
time were not so pressing and if I had at my disposal 
the abundant material consigned to our Government, I 
could write more. I venture to sum up those considera- 
tions to which I have referred, in a form which will be 
useful for determining your opinion upon this important 
and rising colony. 

(1) By means of it England founds an empire which 
will extend over the continent of New Holland, Van 
Diemen's Land, all the islands of Bass Strait, New 
Zealand, and the numerous archipelagos of the Pacific 

(2) She thereby becomes the mistress of a large 
number of superb ports, several of which can be com- 
pared with advantage to the most fortunately situated 
harbours in other parts of the world. 

(3) She thereby excludes her rivals, and, so to 
speak, blocks all the nations of Europe from entry to 
the Pacific. 

(4) Having become the neighbour of Peru and Chili, 
she casts towards those countries hopes increasingly 
assured and greedy. 

(5) Her privateers and her fleets in time of war will 
be able to devastate the coasts of South America; and, 
if in the last war she attempted no such enterprise, the 
reason appears to be that her astute policy made her 
fear to do too much to open the eyes of Spain, and even 
of all Europe. 

(6) In time of peace, by means of an active contra- 
band trade, she prepares redoubtable enemies for the 
Spaniards ; she furnishes arms and ammunition of all 
kinds to that horde of untamed people who have not yet 
been subjugated to the European yoke. 


(7) By the same means she enables the products 
of her manufacturers to inundate South America, which 
is shabbily and above all expensively supplied by Spain. 

(8) If amongst the numerous archipelagos that are 
visited constantly some formidable military position is 
found, England will occupy it and, becoming a nearer 
neighbour to the rich Spanish possessions, will menace 
them more closely, more certainly, and above all more 
impatiently. Mr. Flinders, in an expedition of discovery 
which is calculated to last five years, and who doubtless 
at the present moment is traversing the region under 
discussion, appears to have that object particularly in 
view. 32 

(9) The extraordinarily lucrative whale fishery of 
New Zealand is exclusively 33 assured to them. No 
European nation can henceforth, according to the 
general opinion, compete with them for that object. 

(10) The fishery, no less lucrative, of the enormous 
seals which cover the shores of several of the islands of 
Bass Strait, and from which is drawn an oil infinitely 
superior to whale oil, guarantees them yet another source 
of greatness and of wealth. Note: the seals in question, 
distinguished by the English under the name of sea 
elephants, are sometimes 25 or 30 feet long. They 
attain the bulk of a large cask: and the enormous mass 
of the animal seems, so to say, to be composed of solid, 
or rather coagulated, oil. The quantity extracted from 
one seal is prodigious. I have collected many particu- 
lars on this subject. 

32 "M. Flinders, dans une expedition de d£couverte qui 
doit durer cinq ans, et qui sans doute parcourt en ce moment 
le theatre qui nous occupe, paroit avoir plus particulierement 
cette objet en vue." The passage is peculiarly interesting. At 
the time when PeVon was writing, early in December, 1803, 
Flinders was, as a matter of fact, sailing towards Ile-de-France 
in the Cumberland. 

33 Underlined in original. 


(11) A third fishery, even more lucrative and im- 
portant, is that of the skins of various varieties of seal 
which inhabit most of the islands of Bass Strait, all the 
Furneaux Islands, all the islands off the eastern coast 
of Van Diemen's Land, and all those on the south- 
west coast of New Holland, and which probably 
will be found upon the archipelagos of the eastern 
portion of this vast continent. The skins of these 
various species of seal are much desired in China. The 
sale of a shipload of these goods in that country is as 
rapid as it is lucrative. The ships engaged in the busi- 
ness are laden on their return to Europe with that precious 
merchandise of China which gold alone can extract from 
the clutch of its rapacious possessors. Accordingly, one 
of the most important objects of the mission of Lord 
Macartney 34 to China, that of developing in that country 
a demand for some of the economic and manufacturing 
products of England, so as to relieve that country of the 
necessity of sending out such a mass of specie — that 
interesting object which all the ostentatious display of 
the commercial wealth of Europe had not been able to 
attain, and all the astute diplomacy of Lord Macartney 
had failed to achieve — the English have recently 
accomplished. Masters of the trade in these kinds of 
skin, they are about to become masters of the China 
trade. The coin accumulated in the coffers of the 
Government or of private people will no longer be sunk 
in the provinces of China. That advantage is lincon- 
testably one of the greatest that they have derived from 
their establishment at Port Jackson. 

(12) This augmentation of distant possessions is 
likely to occasion a fresh development in the British 

34 Lord Macartney's embassy to China, 1792-4. was, says the 
Cambridge Modern History (II., 718), "productive only of a some- 
what better acquaintance between the two Powers and an in- 
creased knowledge on the part of British sailors of the naviga- 
tion of Chinese waters." 


Navy. The practice of voyaging round the world should 
exalt the enthusiasm of their sailors, whilst it increases 
their number and efficiency. I may add here that to 
attain the last-mentioned end the English Government 
compels each ship which sails for these, regions, and 
above all for New Zealand, to carry a certain number 
of young men below 19 years of age, who return from 
these voyages only after having obtained a very valuable 
endowment of experience. 

(13) The temperature and salubriousness of the 
country will enable it to look after a very large number of 
soldiers who used to be incapacitated every year by the 
burning heat of Asia. 

(14) The abundance of the flocks, and the superiority 
of their wool, will furnish an immense quantity of excel- 
lent material to the national manufactures, already 
superior to those of the rest of Europe. 

(15) The cultivation of hemp and vines gives cause 
to the English to hope that before very long they will 
be freed from the large tribute which they now pay 
for the first-named to all the Powers of the north of 
Europe, and for the second to Portugal, France and 

(16) I will not discuss with you some substances 
indigenous to the country which are already in use, 
whether in medicine, or in the arts — of eucalyptus gum, 
for example, which is at once astringent and tonic to a 
very high degree, and is likely soon to become one of 
our most energetic drugs. Nor will I say much about the 
resin furnished by the tree which the English mis-name 
goarmier, 35 a resin which by reason of its hardness may 
become of very great value in the arts. It will be 
sufficient to say, General, that I possess a native axe 
obtained from the aboriginals of King George's Sound. 

35 P£ron's word. 


It is nothing better than a chip of very hard granite 
fastened to the end of a piece of wood, which serves as 
a handle, by means of the resin to which I have referred. 
I have shown it to several persons. It will rapidly split 
a wooden plank and one can strike with all one's force, 
without in the least degree injuring the resin. Though 
the edge of the stone has several times been chipped, 
the resin always remained intact. I will say little of the 
fine and abundant timber furnished by what is called 
the casuarina tree, and by what the English improperly 
call the pear. This pear is what the botanists term 
Xylomelum, and by reason of its extremely beautiful and 
deep grain, and the fine polish which it is susceptible 
of receiving, it appears to be superior to some of the 
best known woods. I will not refer at length to the 
famous flax of New Zealand, which may become the 
subject of a large trade when its preparation is made 
easier; nor to cotton, which is being naturalised; nor 
to coffee, of which I myself have seen the first planta- 
tions, etc., etc. All these commodities are secondary in 
importance in comparison with others to which I have 
referred ; yet, considered together, they will add greatly 
to the importance of this new colony. Similarly, I will 
pass over the diverse products which are sure to be 
furnished by the prolific archipelagos, and of which several 
are likely to become of great value and to fetch high 
prices for use in the arts and in medicine. For example, 
the cargo of the last vessel that arrived in Port Jackson 
from the Navigator Islands, during our stay, consisted 
partly of cordage of different degrees of thickness, made 
from a plant peculiar to those islands, the nature of 
which is such that, we were assured, it is almost indes- 
tructible by water and the humidity of the atmosphere; 
whilst its toughness makes it superior to ordinary 

(17) The English hope for much from mineral dis- 


coveries. Those parts of the country lying nearest to 
the sea, which are of a sandstone or slaty formation, 
appear to contain only deposits of excellent coal ; but the 
entire range of the Blue Mountains has not yet been 
explored for minerals. The colony had not up to the 
time of our visit a mineraolgist in its service, but the 
Governor hoped soon to obtain the services of one, to 
commence making investigations ; and the nature of the 
country, combined with its extent, affords ground for 
strong hope in that regard. 

(18) There are, finally, other advantages, apparently 
less interesting, but which do not fail to exert an in- 
fluence upon the character and prestige of a nation. I 
refer to the conspicuous glory which geographical dis- 
coveries necessarily following upon such an establish- 
ment as this bring upon a nation's name; to all that 
which accrues to a people from the discovery and col- 
lection of so many new and valuable things ; to the dis- 
tinguished services which new countries call forth and 
which confer so much distinction upon those who watch 
over their birth. 

Time does not permit me to pursue the enquiry. I 
wish only to add here one fresh proof of the importance 
which England attaches to this new colony. When we 
left Port Jackson, the authorities were awaiting the 
arrival of five or six large vessels laden with the goods 
of English persons formerly domiciled at the Cape of 
Good Hope, whom the surrender of that possession to 
the Dutch had compelled to leave. 36 That very great 
accession of population ought sufficiently to indicate to 
you how great are the projects of the British Ministry 
in that region. 

Before concluding I should have liked to point out 
the impossibility, for France, of retarding the rapid pro- 

36 The Cape was surrendered to Holland in 1803, but British 
rule was restored there in 1806. 


gress of the establishment at Port Jackson, or of enter- 
ing into competition with its settlers in the trade 
in sealskins, the whale fishery, etc. But it would take 
rather too long to discuss that matter. I think I ought 
to confine myself to telling you that my opinion, and 
that of all those among us who have more particularly 
occupied themselves with enquiring into the organiza- 
tion of that colony, is that it should be destroyed as 
soon as possible. 37 To-day we could destroy it easily ; 
we shall not be able to do so in 25 years' time. 

I have the honour to be, with respectful devotion, 
Your very humble servant, 


P.S. — M. Freycinet, the young officer, has especially 
concerned himself with examining all the points upon the 
coast of the environs of Port Jackson which are favour- 
able to the landing of troops. He has collected particular 
information concerning the entrance to the port; and, if 
ever the Government should think of putting into execu- 
tion the project of destroying this freshly-set trap of 
a great Power, 38 that distinguished officer would be of 
valuable assistance in such an operation. 

37 Mon sentiment et celui de tous ceux d'entre nous qui se 
sont plus, particulierement occupes de l'organisation de cette 
colonie seroit de la de'truire le plus tot possible." 

38 "Le projet de detruire ce piege naissant d'une grande 

Appendix C. 


Among the Flinders Papers is a list of names given by 
Flinders to points on the Australian coast, with his 
reasons for doing so. The list is incomplete, but has 
served as the basis of the following catalogue, for help 
in the enlargement of which I am greatly indebted to 
Mr. Walter Jeffery : — 


Hat Hill, named by Flinders from Cook's suggestion 

that it "looked like the crown of a hat." 
Red Point. 

Martin's Isles, after the boy who accompanied them. 
Providential Cove (native name, Wattamowlee). 


Green Cape. 

Cape Barren Island. 

Clarke Island, Hamilton's Rocks, after members of 

the crew of the Sydney Cove. 
Kent's Group, after the Captain of the Supply. 
Armstrong's Channel, after the Master of the Supply. 
Preservation Island. 


Chap pell Islands, after Miss Ann Chappell. 
Settlement Island, Babel Islands (from the noises 

made by the sea-birds), and other names in the 

Furneaux Group. 




Double Sandy Point. 

Low Head. 

Table Cape. 

Circular Head. 

Hunter Islands, after Governor Hunter. 

Three -Hummock Island. 

Barren Island. 

Cape Grim. 

Trefoil Island. 

Albatross Island. 

Mount Heemskirk and Mount Zeehan, after Tasman's 

Point Hibbs, after the Master of the Norfolk. 

Rocky Point. 

Mount de Witt. 

Point St. Vincent, after the First Lord of the Admiralty 

Norfolk Bay and Mount. 

Cape Pillar. 

After the voyage was over, Hunter, apparently at 
Flinders' suggestion, named Cape Portland, Bass 
Strait, Port Dalrymplc and Waterhouse Island. 


Shoal Bay. 
Sugarloaf Point. 
Pumice-stone River. 
Point Skirmish. 
Moreton Island. 
Curlew Inlet. 

tralia) — 

Cape Leeuwin, "the most projecting part of Leeuwin's 



Mount Manypeak. 
Haul-off Rock. 
Cape Knob. 
Mount Barren. 

Lucky Bay, discovered when the ship was in an awk- 
ward position. 
Goose Island. 
Twin Peaks Islands. 
Cape Pasley, after Admiral Pasley. 
Point Malcolm, after Capt. Pulteney Malcolm. 
Point Culver. 
Point Dover. 

tralia) — 

Nuyts' Reefs and Cape. 

Fowler's Bay and Point, after the First Lieutenant of 
the Investigator. 

Point Sinclair, after a midshipman on the Investigator. 

Point Bell, after the surgeon of the Investigator. 

Pur die's Islands, after the Assistant-surgeon of the 

St. Francis Islands, adapted from the name given by 

Lound's Island, Lacy's Island, Evans' Island, Frank- 
lin's Island (in Nuyts' Archipelago), after mid- 
shipmen on the Investigator. 

Petrel Bay. 

Denial Bay, "as well in allusion to St. Peter as to the 
deceptive hope we had found of penetrating by it 
some distance into the interior country." 

Smoky Bay, from the number of smoke columns rising 
from the shore. 

Point Brown, after the Botanist of the Investigator. 

Streaky Bay, "much seaweed floating about." 



Cape Bauer, after the Botanical Draftsman of the 

Point Westall, after the painter. 
Olive Island, after the ship's clerk. 
Cape Radstock, after Admiral Lord Radstock. 
W aide grave Isles. 
Topgallant Isles. 

Anxious Bay, "from the night we passed in it." 
Investigator Group. 

Pearson's Island, after Flinders' brother-in-law. 
Ward's Island, after his mother's maiden name. 
Flinders' Island, after Lieut. S. W. Flinders. 
Cape (now Point) Drummond, after Captain Adam 

Drummond, R.N. 
Point Sir Isaac, Coffin's Bay, after Vice-Admiral Sir 

Isaac Coffin. 
Mount Greenly, Greenly Isles, after the lady to whom 

Sir Isaac Coffin was engaged. 
Point Whidbey, Whidbey's Islands, after "My worthy 

friend the Master-attendant at Sheerness." 
Avoid Bay and Point, "from its being exposed to the 

dangerous southern winds." 
Liguanea Island, after an estate in Jamaica. 
Cape Wiles, after the Botanist on the Providence. 
Williams' Isle. 

Sleaford Bay, from Sleaford in Lincolnshire. 
Thistle Island, after the Master of the Investigator. 
Neptune Isles, "for they seemed inaccessible to men." 
Thorny Passage, from the dangerous rocks. 
Cape Catastrophe, where the accident occurred. 
Taylor's Island, after a midshipman drowned in the 

Wedge Island, "from its shape." 
Gambier Isles, after Admiral Lord Gambier. 
Memory Cove, in memory of the accident. 



Cape Donington, after Flinders' birthplace. 

Port Lincoln, after the chief town in Flinders' native 

Boston Island, Bay and Point, Bicker Island, Surfleet 
Point, Stamford Hill, Spalding Cove, Grantham 
Island, Kirton Point, Point Bolingbroke, Louth 
Bay and Isle, Sleaford Mere, Lusby Isle, Langton 
Isle, Kirkby Isle, Winceby Isle, Sibsey Isle, Tumby 
Isle, Stickney Isle, Hareby Isle. All Lincolnshire 
names, after places familiar to Flinders. 

Dalby Isle, after the Rev. M. Tyler's parish. 

Marum Isle, after the residence of Mr. Stephenson, 
Sir Joseph Banks' agent. 

Spilsby Island, after the town where the Franklins 

Partney Isles, after the place where Miss Chappell 
lived, and where Flinders was married. 

Revesby Isle, after Revesby Abbey, Banks' Lincoln- 
shire seat. 

Northside Hill. 

Elbow Hill, from its shape. 

Barn Hill, from the form of its top. 

Mount Young, after Admiral Young. 

Point Lowly. 

Mount Brown, after the botanist. 

Mount Arden, Flinders' great-grandmother's name. 

Point Riley, after an Admiralty official. 

Point Pearce, after an Admiralty official. 

Corny Point, "a remarkable point." 

Hardwicke Bay, after Lord Hardwicke. 

Spencer's Gulf and Cape, after Earl Spencer. 

Althorp Isles, after Lord Spencer's eldest son. 

Kangaroo Island and Head. 

Point Marsden, after the Second Secretary to the 



Nepean Bay, after Sir Evan Nepean, Secretary to the 

Mount Lofty, from its height. 

St. Vincent's Gulf, after Admiral Lord St. Vincent. 
Cape Jervis, Lord St. Vincent's family name. 
Troubridge Hill, after Admiral Troubridge. 
Investigator Strait. 

Yorke's Peninsula, after the Hon. C. P. Yorke. 
Prospect Hill. 
Pelican Lagoon. 
Backstairs Passage. 
Antechamber Bay. 
Cape Willoughby. 
Pages Islets. 
Encounter Bay. 

Point Franklin. 

Indented Head (Port Phillip). 
Station Peak (Port Phillip). 


Tacking Point. 

Mount Larcom, after Captain Larcom, R.N. 

Gatcombe Head. 

Port Curtis, after Admiral Sir Roger Curtis. 

Facing Island, the eastern boundary of Port Curtis, 
facing the sea. 

Port Bowen, after Captain James Bowen, R.N., Naval 
Commandant at Madeira when the Investigator 
put in there. 

Cape Clinton, after Colonel Clinton of the 85th Regi- 
ment, Commandant at Madeira. 

Entrance Island. 

Westwater Head. 

Eastwater Hill. 

Mount Westall, after William Westall the artist. 



Tozvnshend Island — Cook had so named the Cape 

which is its prominent feature. 
Leicester Island. 

Akefis Island, after the Master of the Investigator. 
Strongtide Passage. 
Double Mount. 

Mount Funnel, from its form. 
Upper Head. 

Percy Isles, after the Northumberland family. 
Eastern Fields, coral banks near Torres Strait. 
Pandora's Entrance, after the Pandora. 
Half-way Island, convenient anchorage for ships going 

through Torres Strait. 
Good Island, after Peter Good, the botanist. 

Carpentaria) — 

Duyfken Point, after the first vessel which entered the 

Gulf of Carpentaria. 
Pera Head, after the second vessel that sailed along 

this coast in 1623. 
Sweers Island, after a member of the Batavia Council 

in Tasman's time. 
Inspection Hill. 
Lord William Bentinck's Island (now Bentinck Island), 

after the Governor of Madras. 
Allen's Island, after the "Miner" — i.e.. Geologist — of 

the Investigator. 
Horseshoe Island. 
Investigator Road. 
Pisonia Isle, from the soft white wood of the Pisonia 

tree found upon it. 
Bountiful Island. 
Welle sley Island, Mornington Isle — After the Marquess 

Wellesley, Governor-General of India, whose 

earlier title was Lord Mornington. 


Territory) — 

Vanderlin Island, the Dutch "Cape Vanderlin." 
Sir Edward Pcllew Group, Cape Pellew, after 

Admiral Pellew. 
Craggy Isles. 
West Island. 
North Island. 
Centre Island. 
Observation Island. 
Cabbage-Tree Cove. 

Maria Island, the Dutch "Cape Maria." 
Bickerton Island, after Admiral Sir Richard Bickerton. 
Cape Barrow, after Sir John Barrow. 
Connexion Island. 
North Point Island. 
Chasm Island, "the upper parts are intersected by 

many deep chasms. 
North-West Bay. 

Winchelsea Island, after the Earl of Winchelsea. 
Finch's Island, after the Winchelsea family name. 
Pandanus Hill, from the clump of trees upon it. 
Burney Island, after Captain James Burney, R.N. 
Nicol Island, after "His Majesty's bookseller." 
Woodah Island, "it having some resemblance to the 

whaddie, or woodah, a wooden sword used by the 

natives of Port Jackson." 
Bustard Isles — They "harboured several bustards." 
Mount Grindall, Point Grindall, after Vice- Admiral 

Morgan's Isle, after a seaman who died there. 
Bluemud Bay, "in most parts of the bay is a blue mud 

of so fine a quality that I judge it might be useful 

in the manufacture of earthenware." 
Point Blane, after Sir Gilbert Blane of the Naval 

Medical Board. 



Cape Shield, after Commissioner Shield. 

Cape Grey, after General Grey, Commandant at Cape- 

Point Middle. 

Mount Alexander. 

Point Alexander. 

Round Hill Island. 

Caledon Bay, after the Governor of the Cape of Good 

Cape Arnhem, extremity of Arnhem's Land. 

Mount Saunders. 

Mount Dundas, Melville Isles — After Dundas, Vis- 
count Melville, a colleague of the younger Pitt. 

Mount Bonner. 

Drimmie Head. 

Cape Wilberforce, after W. Wilberforce, M.P., the 
slave-emancipator, who was a friend of Flinders. 

Melville Bay, after Viscount Melville. 

Harbour Rock. 

Point Dundas. 

Bromby Islands, after the Rev. F. Bromby, of Hull, a 
cousin of Mrs. Flinders. 

Malay Road. 

Pombasso's Island, after the chief of the Malay praus. 

Cotton's Island, after Captain Cotton of the East India 
Co.'s Directorate. 

English Company Islands, after the East India Co. 

Wigram Island. 

Truant Island, "from its lying away from the rest." 

Inglis Island. 

Bosanquet Island. 

Astell Island. 

Mallison Island. 

Point Arrcwsmith, after the map-publisher. 




Cape Newbald, Newbald Island — After Henrietta 
Newbald, nee Flinders, who introduced him to 

Arnhem Bay. 

Wessell Islands, name found on a Dutch chart. 

Point Dale. 

Wreck Reef. 



1. The Flinders Papers, in the Melbourne Public 
Library, consisting of a letter-book of Flinders (Aug. 31, 
1807, to May 31, 1 814) ; ms. narrative of the voyage of the 
Francis; miscellaneous notes and memoranda by friends and 
relatives, a short ms. memoir, and a large quantity of tran- 
scripts of journals, family letters, etc. This material is not 
at present numbered, and allusions to it in the text of the 
book are therefore made by the general reference, "Flin- 
ders Papers." 

2. Decaen Papers, in the Municipal Library of Caen, 
Normandy. General Decaen's manuscripts fill 149 volumes. 
The documents relating to Flinders, including a translation 
of portions of the Cumberland's log, are principally in 
volumes 10, 84, 92, and 105. Peron's important report 
upon the British colony at Port Jackson is also in this col- 
lection, which includes many original letters of Flinders. 

3. Archives Nationales, Paris, Marine BB4, 996-9, con- 
tains a quantity of manuscripts relative to Baudin's ex- 
peditions, including reports and letters by him, and many 
miscellaneous papers. 

4. The Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, nouveaux 
acquisitions, France, contains many documents relative to 
Baudin's expedition, including the diary of the commander. 

5. The Archives du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle de 
Paris contain reports and documents concerning the 
scientific work of Baudin's expedition. 

6. The Depot de la Marine, service hydrographique. 
Paris, cartons 6, 22, and 23, contains many reports upon the 
Australian coast made to Captain Baudin by his officers. 

HH 475 


7. The Library of the Royal Colonial Institute, London, 
contains Westall's original drawings executed on the 
Investigator voyage. Photographed copies are in the 
Mitchell Library, Sydney. 

8. The Mitchell Library, Sydney, contains Smith's ms. 
journal of the Investigator voyage, and many Flinders and 
Franklin papers, as cited in the text. 


Most of the Flinders material contained in the Record 
Office, London, and the British Museum, is printed in 
Vol. III., IV., V., VI. and VII. of the Historical Records 
of New South Wales, edited by F. M. Bladen (Sydney, 
1893-1901). Copies of other letters and documents, mainly 
from the same source, are in course of publication by 
the Commonwealth Government, under the direction of 
the Commonwealth Library Committee, edited by Dr. F. 


Flinders, Matthew, A Voyage to Terra Australis, 
2 vols., London, 1814. The principal authority for the 
voyages of the navigator. 

Flinders, M., Observations on the Coasts of Van 
Diemen's Land, etc., London, 1801. 

Flinders, M., Papers on the Marine Barometer and 
on Variations of the Mariner's Compass, printed in the 
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London, 

Flinders, Matthew, Reise nach dem Austral-Lande, in 
der Absicht die Entdeckung desselben zu vollenden 
unter nommen in den Jaksen, 1801, 1802 and 1803. Aus 
dem Englischen, von F. Gotze. Weimar, 1816. A German 
translation of the Voyage to Terra Australis. An accom- 
panying map is of great interest, as it essays for the first 
time to indicate by colours the portions of the Australian 


coast discovered by the English, the Dutch and the French. 
The map errs with regard to Kangaroo Island, in attributing 
the discovery of the north to the French and the south to 
the English. The reverse was the case. 

Matthew Flinders, Ontdekkings-reis naar het 
Groote Zuidland anders Nieuw Holland; bezigtiging van 
het zelve in 1801, 1802 en 1803; noodlottige schipbreak, 
en gevangenschap van 6y2 jaar by de Franschen op 
Mauritius. Uit het Engelsch. 4 vols., Haarlem, 1815-16. 
A Dutch translation of the Voyage to Terra Australis. 


Barrow, Sir John, articles in Quarterly Review, 1810 
and 181 7, strongly condemning the work of Peron and 
Freycinet (see below), and championing the cause of 
Flinders. Barrow had access to material in possession of 
the Admiralty, sent to England from Mauritius by Flinders. 

Becke, L., and Jeffery, W., Naval Pioneers of Aus- 
tralia, London, 1899. Very useful. 

Dalrymple, Alexander, Collection of Voyages and 
Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean, 2 vols., London, 

Edinburgh Review, 1807, reviews with commendation 
Flinders' "Observations upon the Marine Barometer." 

Grant, Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery, London, 


Labilliere, F. P., Early History of the Colony of Vic- 
toria, 2 vols., London, 1878-9. Prints extracts from Flin- 
ders' ms. journals relating to Port Phillip. 

Laughton, Sir J. K., article on Flinders in Dictionary 
of National Biography. 

Maiden, J. H., Sir Joseph Banks, the Father of Aus- 
tralia, Sydney, 1909. 

Fowler, T. W., "The Work of Captain Matthew Flin- 
ders in Port Phillip," Victorian Geographical Journal, 19 12, 
Good topographical account. 


Malte-Brun, Annales des Voyages, 1810 and 1814. 
Interesting references to Flinders; biographical sketch in 
Vol. XXIII., 268. 

Naval Chronicle, Vol. XXXII. (1814), contains a bio- 
graphy of Flinders, with portrait. 

Paterson, G., History of New South Wales, New- 
castle-on-Tyne, 181 1. Contains account of the early dis- 
coveries of Bass and Flinders. 

Peron and Freycinet, Voyage de decouvertes aux 
Terres Australes, Paris, 1807-17. Second edition, with 
additions by Freycinet, 1824. Very important, but the 
historical statements have to be checked by reference to 
Baudin's ms. diary and letters (see reference to mss. 

Scoresby, W., Journal of a Voyage to Australia for 
Magnetic Research, 2 vols., London, 1859. The introduc- 
tion by A. Smith deals with Flinders' discoveries regarding 
variations of the compass. 

Scott, Ernest, Terre Napoleon, London, 1910. Deals 
generally with French explorations in Australia and partial 
larly with the work of Baudin and Flinders. See also the 
bibliography to that book. 

Scott, Ernest, English and French Navigators on tlic 
Victorian Coast, with maps, etc., in the Victorian Historical 
Magazine, 191 2. 

Scott, Ernest, "Baudin's Voyage of Exploration to s 
Australia," in English Historical Review, April, 1913. 

Smith, E., Life of Sir Joseph Banks, London, 191 1. 

South Australian Geographical Society's Proceedings., 
1912. Prints from Baudin's letter to Minister of Marine 
his account of the meeting with Flinders in Encounter Bay, 
and Decaen's statement of his reasons for detaining 

Picard, Ernest (editor), Memoires et Journaux du 
General Decaen, 2 vols., Paris, 191 1. 


Pitot, Albert, Esquisses historiques de Vile de France, 
1715-1810, Port Louis, Mauritius, 1899. 

Prentout, Henri, L'lle de France sous Decaen, Paris. 
1901. Very important. 

Victorian Geographical Journal, Vol. XXVIII. (1910- 
11) prints a biographical sketch of Flinders from a ms. 
found in a copy of A Voyage to Terra Australis in Doning- 
ton vicarage in 1903. It is printed with an Introduction 
(by G. Gordon McCrae) wherein it is stated to be "hitherto 
unpublished." But it is simply the Naval Chronicle sketch, 
with a few paragraphs added, and it is from the same pen 
as the ms. sketch mentioned above. 

Walckenaer, C. A., biography of Flinders in the 
Biographie Universelle, Vol. XIV; excellent. 

Walker, J. Backhouse, Early Tasmania, Hobart, 1902. 
Gives an admirable account of Flinders' explorations in 


Where the reference is to a footnote, the letter n follows the number 

of the page. 

Aboriginals, references to, 34, 

89, 135, 142, 159, 160-2, 176, 

206, 208, 219, 243, 266, 270, 


Admiralty's treatment of Flinders, 

365-6, 398 
Aken, John, 266, 280, 287 
Sails in Cumberland, 301 
At Ile-de-France, 305, 323, 324 
Departure of, 355-6 
Albatross Island, 142, 466 
Allen, John, miner, joins Investi- 
gator, 180 
Althorp Isles, 210, 469 
Amiens, treaty of, 199, 315 
Arnhem Bay, 274, 474 
Arthur's Seat, Port Phillip, 240 
Australasia, name of, 420 
Australia, discovery of, 1 
Name of, hi, 306, 420 et seq. 
Geography of, before Flinders, 

64 et seq. 
Theories concerning, 72 et seq., 

French expedition to, 198 et seq. 
South Coast discovery, 205 et 

Influence of Flinders on dis- 
covery, 238 
Circumnavigation of, 265 et 
"Australians," Flinders' use of 

word, 220 
Babel Isles, 140, 465 
Backstairs Passage, 217, 470 
Banks, Cape, 234 
Banks' Group, 211 

Banks, Sir Joseph, promotes 
breadfruit expedition, 24, 28 

His friendship for Flinders, 
143, 164 

His interest in Australian de- 
velopment, 144, 164 

Dedication of Flinders' Obser- 
vations to, 171 

His letters concerning Mrs. 
Flinders' proposed voyage on 
Investigator, 185 et seq. 

Disapproves of Flinders' con- 
duct towards Decaen, 330, 367 

His dislike to word Australia, 
Barmouth Creek, 104 
Barois, Colonel, 346 
Barometer, marine, Flinders' 

paper on use of, 363, 414 
Barrow, Sir John, his article on 

Flinders' case, 363 
Bass, Elizabeth, her marriage to 
George Bass, 146 

Letters from her husband, 148 
Bass, George, family of, 7 

Medical training of, 83 

Sails in Reliance, 83 

Character of, 83-4 

Friendship with Flinders, 84 

Discovery of Bass Strait, 97 et 
seq., 120 et seq. 

Exploration of Blue Mountains, 
97 et seq. 

Discovery of coal, 99 

Plans discovery voyage, 100 et 

Whaleboat crew, 102 




Bass, George — 
Discovery of Twofold Bay, 105 
Discovery of Wilson's Promon- 
tory, 108 
Adventure with escaped con- 
victs, 111 
Discovery of Western Port, 114 
French admiration for, 122 
Report on Derwent, 140 
Fate of, 145 et seq. 
Indifference to fame, 145 
Marriage of, 146 
Purchase of Venus, 146 
Voyage to Tahiti, 147 
New Zealand fishing project, 

South American projects, 149 et 

Reports concerning his end, 

Letters to his mother, 155 
Flinders' last letter to, 281 
See also Flinders. 
Bass Strait, discovery of, 97 et 

seq., 120 et seq. 
Governor Hunter on, 100, 134, 

Naming of, 140, 466 
Importance of discovery, 143 
Flinders' chart of, 102-3 
Baudin des Ardennes, Lieut. 

Charles, wounded, and visited 

by Flinders, 407 
Baudin, Captain Nicolas, his 

expedition to Australia, 198 

et seq. 
Instructions to, 199, 200 
His career, 201 
Reaches Ile-de-France, 202 
Sails for Southern Tasmania, 

At Waterhouse Island, 204 
In Encounter Bay, 224 et seq.. 

431 et seq. 
At Kangaroo Island, 232 

Baudin, Captain Nicolas — 
At Port Jackson, 246 et seq. 
Rumours of intended French 

settlement, 250 
Letter to Governor King, 251 
Report on Port Jackson, 256 
His account of the Encounter 
Bay meeting, 431 et seq. 
Bauer, Cape, 210, 467 
Bauer, Ferdinand, botanical 
draftsman, joins Investigator, 
179, 280, 286, 326u 
Baye du Cap, 305 
Beautemps-Beaupre, 206 
Bell, Point, 210, 467 
Bellerophon, H.M.S., 16, 19, 20, 
Flinders appointed to, 42 
Battle off Brest, 43 et seq. 
Bennelong Point, 248w 
Bergeret, Captain, 347 
Blaxland, Gregory, his explora- 
tion of Blue Mountains, 99 
Bligh, Captain William, voyage 
under Captain Cook, 20 
Command of the Bounty, 24 
Mutiny of the Bounty, 25 
Character of, 28 
Second breadfruit expedition, 

28, 29 
Expedition reaches Tahiti, 32 
Voyage from Pacific to West 

Indies, 33 
Introduces Flinders to Duke of 

Clarence, 392 
Asks for dedication of Flin- 
ders' book, 393 
Blue Mountains, exploration of, 

97 et seq. 
Blue Mud Bay, 274, 472 
Bolger, Commandant, 306-7 
Bongaree, aboriginal, accompanies 
Flinders on Queensland voy- 
age, 159 
On Investigator, 266 



Boston, Point, 211, 469 

Botany Bay, 440 

Bougainville, 367 

Boullanger, hydrographer on Le 

Geographe, AZAn 
Bounty, H.M.S., voyage to Tahiti, 

Mutiny of, 25 
Bowling Green, Cape, 269 
Breadfruit, 22 et seq. 
Bridgewater, 282, 286, 288 

Behaviour at Wreck Reef, 290 
Wreck of, 291 
Bridgewater, Cape, 235 
Brisbane River, 159 
Brouwer, Henrick, his new route 

to Java, 68 
Brown, Point, 210, 467 
Brown, Robert, botanist, 227, 280, 

285, 326», 432h, 435n 
Joins Investigator, 178 
His Prodromus, 179, 286n 
Burney, Captain, and name Aus- 
tralia, 426 
Cape of Good Hope, Flinders at, 

31, 196 
Importance of to Australia, 79 
Voyage of Reliance to from 

Sydney, 94 
Carpentaria, Gulf of, 272 
Catastrophe, Cape, 211, 468 
Cato, 286 

Wreck of, 288 
Cattle Point, 248 
Chappell, Ann, see Flinders, Mrs. 

Chappell Isles, 165, 465 
Chappell, Mount, 165 
Clarence River, 159 
Clarke's Island, 132, 465 
Coal, discovery of in New South 

Wales, 99 
Coalcliff, 99 
Coffin's Bay, 211, 468 

Compass, variations of, Flinders' 

experiments, 415 
Convicts, 102 

Escaped, 111 et seq., 129 

Isaac Nichols, 157 

Irish, Peron on, 258, 260 

On Investigator, 266, 277 
Cook, Captain James, his voyage, 

His belief in a strait between 
New Holland and Van 
Diemen's land, 74 

Pension to his widow, 400 
Coral reefs, Flinders on, 270 
Crossley, J., 180 

Cumberland, schooner, voyage to 
Ile-de-France, 298 et seq. 

At Kupang, 302 

Arrival at Ile-de-France, 305 

Enters Port Louis, 321 

End of, 398 
Dalrymple, Alexander, naval 
hydrographer, 137 

His use of word Australia, 422 
Dalrymple, Port, 137, 392, 466 
Dampier, William, 22 
Dance, Commodore Nathaniel, 

D'Arifat, Madame, 357 et seq. 
Darwin, on coral reefs, 270 
Decaen, General Charles, 251n, 
254, 256, 260, 263, 306 

Career of, 308 et seq. 

Napoleon's opinion of, 313 

Sent to India, 315 

Arrival at Pondicherry, 317 

Sails for Ile-de-France, 318 

Arrival at Port Louis, 318 

Character of, 319-20 

Examination of Flinders, 321 

Interrogates Flinders, 324 

Invites Flinders to dinner, 328 

Flinders' refusal, 329 



Decaen, General Charles — 
Accuses Flinders of imperti- 
nence, 331 
His intentions, 332 
Report to French Government, 

Motives for detaining Flinders, 

336 et seq. 
Anger against Flinders, 339 
Despatch arrives in France, 346 
Flinders' opinion of, 350 
Receives order for Flinders' 

release, 368 
Refuses to liberate Flinders, 

His reasons, 373 
Release of Flinders, 380 
Decres, French Minister of 

Marine, 346, 368 
Dentrecasteaux, 71, 76, 173, 198, 

Derwent, estuary of the, 140, 392, 

Dirk Hartog Island, 68 
Donington, birthplace of Flinders, 
2, 8 
Flinders' monument at, 9, 409 
Free school, 11 

The Flinders' house, xviii., 14 
Donington, Cape, 211, 469 
Dunienville, Major, 305-6 
Dutch navigators, discoveries in 

Australia, 67 et seq. 
East India Company, its interest 
in Australia, 174, 180 
Interest in Investigator voyage, 
Elder, John, Flinders' servant, 
280, 391 
Sails in Cumberland, 301 
At Ile-de-France, 338, 359, 365 
Encounter Bay, 204, 470 
Flinders and Baudin in, 224 et 
seq., 431 et seq. 
Everard, Cape, 107, 130 

Fitzroy, Sir Charles, 429 
Fleurieu, Comte de, prepares 

instructions for French dis- 
covery voyages, 173, 200, 205, 

352, 367 
Flinders, John, naval career, 15 
Flinders, Matthew, surgeon, 

father of the navigator, 2, 8 
Marriage into Franklin family, 

Death of, 277 
Flinders, Matthew, genealogy, 6 
School days, 11 

Study of Robinson Crusoe, 12 
Anecdotes of childhood, 14 
Desire to go to sea, 14 
Advice of Uncle, 15 
Study of navigation, 17 
Introduction to Admiral Pasley, 

Anecdote of visit to Pasley, 18 
On the Scipio, 19 
On the Bcllerophon, 19 
On the Dictator, 20 
Midshipman on Providence, 29 
Description of Teneriffe, 30 
Description of Dutch at the 

Cape, 31 
In Torres Strait, 34 
Return to Europe, 40 
Aide-de-camp on Bcllerophon, 

First experience of war, 44 
Anecdote of battle, 45 
His journal of the engagement, 

48 et seq. 
Estimate of French seamen, 60 
Appointed to Reliance, 78 
Careful record of observations, 

Arrival at Port Jackson, 82 
Friendship with Bass, 84 
Exploration of George's River, 




Flinders, Matthew — 
Voyages in Tom Thumb, 86 et 

Adventure with aboriginals, 89 
Voyage on Francis, 123 et seq. 
Discovery of Kent Group, 126 
Biological notes, 126 
On the sooty petrel, 127 
Description of wombat, 132 
Voyage to Norfolk Island, 133 
Exploration projects, 134 
Voyage of Norfolk, 135 
Character as an author, 136 
Discovery of Bass Strait, 138 
Circumnavigation of Tasmania, 

130 et seq. 
Description of Tasmanian 

mountains, 139 
Banks' friendship for 143, 164 
On Queensland coast, 157 et seq. 
Adventures with Queensland 

aboriginals, 160-1 
Return to England, 163 
Marriage of, 164, 168w 
His Observations, 165, 171 
Naming of Mount Chappell, 165 
Letters to his wife, 167, 193, 

276, 279, 349, 410 
Suggests new discovery voyage, 

Instructions for voyage, 181 et 

Passport from French Govern- 
ment, 183 
Correspondence concerning 

Mrs. Flinders' proposed voy- 
age in Investigator, 184 et seq. 
Reports sandbank at the Roar, 

Management of crew, 195-6 
On Australian coast, 206 
Method of research, 207 
Coastal names given by, 209 et 
seq., 465 et seq. 

Flinders, Matthew— 

On the character of John 

Thistle, 213 
Exploration of Spencer's Gulf, 

Discovery of Kangaroo Island, 

Discovery of St. Vincent's Gulf, 

In Encounter Bay, 224 et seq., 

431 et seq. 
In Port Phillip, 233 et seq. 
At King Island, 236 
Description of Port Phillip 

entrance, 236 
Influence on Australian dis- 
covery, 238 
Departure from Port Phillip, 

Arrival at Port Jackson, 244 
On Frangois Peron, 262 
Circumnavigation of Australia, 

265 et seq. 
On coral reefs, 270 
Forced to return to Port Jack- 
son, 272, 276 
Death of father, 277 
Last letter to Bass, 281-3 
Sails in Porpoise, 285 
Observations on Sydney, 287 
Wrecked on Porpoise, 287 
Sails for Port Jackson in Hope, 

Arrives at Port Jackson, 298 
Arrival at Wreck Reef, 300 
Arrival at Kupang, 302 
Decides to sail for Ile-de- 

France, 303 et seq. 
Sights Ile-de-France, 305 
Appears before Decaen, 321 
Seizure of his papers, 323 
Detained, 323 

Interrogated by Decaen, 324 
Invited to dinner by Decaen, 328 
His refusal, 329 



Flinders, Matthew- 
Accused of impertinence, 331 
Carries despatches for Gover- 
nor King, 334 
Letters to Decaen, 339 et seq. 
Obtains books and papers, 341 
Prolongation of captivity, 348 

et seq. 
Occupations in Garden Prison, 

Opinion of Decaen, 350 
Solicits examination by French 

officers, 351 
Refuses to surrender his sword, 

Removal to Wilhelm's Plains, 

Life at Wilhelm's Plains, 359 et 

Works on his Voyage, 363 
Paper on marine barometer, 363 
Treatment by Admiralty, 366 
Release ordered, 368 
Decaen refuses release, 371-2 
Knowledge of weakness of Ile- 

de-France, 374 
Allegations as to taking sound- 
ings, 374 
Possibilities of escape, 377 
Released, 380 
Arrival in England, 381 
Receipt for books, papers, etc., 

Interest in French prisoners of 

war, 391 
Honoured in London, 392 
Evidence before House of 

Commons Committee, 392 
Works at his Voyage and 

charts, 392-3 
Illness of, 395 
Death of, 396 
Place of burial, 396-7 
Characteristics, 402 et seq. 

Flinders, Matthew — 
Visit to wounded French 

officer, 407 
Advice to young officers, 408-10 
As a navigator, 414 et seq. 
Naming of Australia, 420 et seq. 
Flinders, Mrs. Ann, marriage to 
Matthew Flinders, 164 
Flinders' letters to, 167, 193, 

276, 279, 349, 410 
Proposed voyage in Investi- 
gator, 184 et seq. 
On Admiralty's treatment of 

Flinders, 366 
Meets Flinders on his return, 

Pension voted by Australian 
colonies, 400 
Flinders, S. W., joins Investiga- 
tor, 178 
On Wreck Reef, 300 
Flinders' bar, invention of, 416 
Flinders' Entrance, 269» 
Flinders family, 2 

Connection with Tennysons, 7 
Flinders' Island, 130, 468 
Foigny, Gabriel de, his La Terre 

Australe connue, 421 
Forfait, French Marine Minister, 

instructions to Baudin, 199 
Fowler, Robert, joins Investiga- 
tor, 178, 209, 275, 280 
On Rolla, 301, 302n 
Fowler's Bay, 209, 210, 467 
Francis, schooner, voyage of, 123 
et seq., 133, 285 
Sails with Cumberland, 298 et 
Franklin, Sir John, connection 
with Finders' family, 7 
On the Polyphemus, 170 
Influenced by Flinders, 170 
Joins Investigator, 178 
At wreck of Porpoise, 295 



Franklin, Sir John — 
On Rolla, 301 
On Flinders' return to England, 

Franklin's Isles, 210, 467 
French Island, 115, 204 
French Revolution, 41 
Freycinet, Lieut. Louis de, at 

Sydney, 253, 464 
On military situation at Port 

Jackson, 259, 260, 261 
His hydrographical work, 386 
Charge of plagiarism against, 

Publication of his charts, 389 
Furneaux, commander of Adven- 
ture, 74, 108 
Furneaux Land, 108 
Gambier Isles, 216, 468 
Gambier, Mount, 234 
Garden Prison, see Maison Des- 

Geo graph e, Le, 190, 202-4, 225 et 

seq., 246 et seq., 253-4, 304, 

321, 431 et seq. 
George's River, exploration of, 

Glasshouse Bay, 158 
Glasshouse Mountains, 159 
Good, Peter, gardener, joins 

Investigator, 180 
Grant, Captain, in command of 

Lady Nelson, 233 
Governor King on, 234 
Sails for Australia, 234 
Harrington, brig, and the Ameri- 
can contraband trade, 152 et 

Hartog, Dirk, his metal plate, 68 
Hawkesbury River, the, 261, 285, 

Heemskirk, Mount, 140, 466 
Hervey Bay, 158 
Hicks, Point, 107, 130 

Hindmarsh, Sir John, his naval 

career, 16 
Hohenlinden, battle of, 312 
Hope, cutter, 293-4, 298, 384 
Howe, Lord, battle off Brest, 43 
Hunter, Captain John, appointed 
Governor of New South 
Wales, 77 
Interest in Australian colonisa- 
tion, 79 
Discourteous treatment of by 

Portuguese Viceroy, 81 
Encourages Bass and Flinders, 

On Bass Strait, 100 et seq. 
Ile-de-France, 302 
Flinders at, 305 et seq. 
Interior of, 358 
Military situation of, 373, 379 
Regulations concerning visiting 

ships, 375 
Blockade of, 379 
Captured by British, 382 
Investigator, 163 et seq. 
Reasons for expedition, 173 
Formerly the Xenophon, 174 
Refitting of, 175-6 
Leakiness, 175 
Selection of crew, 177 
Sailing delayed, 190 
Sailing of, 190, 193 
On South Coast, 205 et seq. 
In Encounter Bay, 224 et seq., 

431 et seq. 
In Port Phillip, 233 et seq. 
Arrival at Port Jackson, 244 
Circumnavigation of Australia, 

265 et seq. 
Decrepit condition of, 272, 275, 

Taken to England, 284 
End of, 284 
Investigator Strait, 217, 389, 470 
Jervis Bay, 104 
Julia Percy Island, 235 



Jussieu, French botanist, recom- 
mends Baudin to command 
discovery voyage, 201, 255, 264 

Kangaroo Island, discovery of, 
216, 434, 469 
Wild life on, 220 
Baudin at, 232, 276, 388 

Kent, Lieut. William, 94, 126, 157, 
186, 399 

Kent's Group, 126, 465 

Keppel Bay, 267 

King, Governor, P. G., and Bass's 
South American project, 149 
et seq. 
His hospitality to French ex- 
pedition, 248 
Receives news of Porpoise 

wreck, 298 
Entrusts despatches to Flinders, 

Protest against Flinders' im- 
prisonment, 365 

King George's Sound, 205 

King Island, 229 
Discovery of, 236 
French at, 251 

Kupang, 275 

Lacepede, 255 

Lacy, midshipman, 241, 391 

Lady Nelson, 73, 120, 233 et seq., 
267, 285 

Laperouse, 71, 76, 173, 198, 222, 
223, 247, 268, 361, 418 

Launceston, 137 

Lawson, Lieut., his share in cross- 
ing Blue Mountains, 99 

Leeuwin, Cape, 197, 206, 466 

Linois, Rear-Admiral, 302, 317-18 

Little Bay, 104 

Liverpool, Lord, 426 

Lofty, Mount, 217, 470 

Louis XVI., his interest in dis- 
covery voyages,. 173 

Louth Bay, 211 

Louth Isle, 211, 469 
Lucky Bay, 211, 467 
Macquarie, Fort, 248n 
Macquarie, Governor, his use of 

word Australia, 428 
Maison Despeaux (Garden 

Prison), 345 
Malaspina, Admiral, 437 
Malte-Brun, 367 
Championship of Flinders, 387, 
Maria Island, 274, 472 
Marsden, Revd. Samuel, 439 
Martin's Isles, 91, 465 
Mauritius, see Ile-de-France 
Melville Bay, 274, 473 
Memory Cove, 214, 468 
Monistrol, Colonel, 321, 324, 329, 

338, 341, 345, 371, 384 
Moreau, General, 311 et seq. 
Moreton Bay, 158, 162 
Mornington, 241 
Mornington Island, 273, 471 
Murray, Lieut. John, discovers 
Port Phillip, 237 
Accompanies Flinders, 267 
Mutton birds, 127 et seq. 
Napoleon, authorises French dis- 
covery voyage, 173, 198, 255 
His opinion of General Decaen, 

Sends Decaen to India, 315 
Hears of the Flinders case, 347 
Orders release of Flinders, 368 
His comment on oaths of 
allegiance, 382 
Xaturaliste, Le, 115, 190, 202-4, 
225 et seq., 247 et seq., 253, 
304, 336, 434h-5 
Navy, the British, promotion in, 
Entrance to, 17 
Nelson, 15, 211 
Nelson, Cape, 211, 235 



Nepean, Evan, Secretary of the 
Admiralty, 176, 238 

Nepean Peninsula, 236n, 238, 242 

Nichols, Isaac, case of, 157 

Norfolk, sloop, 134 
Flinders' description of, 138 
Importance of voyage, 142-3 
Voyage to Queensland coast, 
158 et seq. 

Northumberland, Cape, 234 

Nuyts, Pieter, 69, 205 

Observations on the Coast of Van 
Diemen's Land, publication 
of, 171 

Otto, L. G., 173-4 

Otway, Cape, 234, 235, 236 

Palmer, Captain of Bridgewater, 

Pandora's Entrance, 269, 471 

Papuans, fight with in Torres 
Strait, 34 et seq. 

Park, Mungo, and the Investiga- 
tor, 178 

Parramatta, 440 

Partney Isle, 211, 469 

Pasle)^, Admiral Sir Thomas, 
Flinders' introduction to, 18 
His interest in Flinders' career, 

Command of Bellerophon, 42 
Wounded in battle off Brest, 46 
Character of, 61-2 

Pasley, Cape, naming of, 62, 467 

Paterson, Lieut-Col., 250, 251, 257, 

Peel, Sir Robert, 426 

Pellew, Rear-Admiral, his interest 
in Flinders' case, 364 

Pellew Group, 273, 472 

Pelsart, Francis, on the Aus- 
tralian Coast, 69 

Percy Isles, 268, 471 

Peron, Frangois, at Sydney, 253 
His report on British settlement, 

254, 436 et seq. 
Plays the spy on British de- 
signs, 257 
• Flinders on, 262 
Scientific work of, 263 
Effect of his report on Decaen, 

Malte-Brun on, 387-8 
Death of, 388 
Petrie, Professor W. M. Flinders, 
grandson of Matthew Flin- 
ders, 6, 401m 
Phillip Island, 115 
Pinkerton, Modern Geography, 71 
Pitot, Thomas, 357, 358, 407 
Pitt, Mount, 129 

Plagiarism, allegation against the 
French, 327, 383 et seq. 
Freycinet on, 390 
Pondicherry, 316 
Porpoise, Flinders sails in, 285 

Wreck of, 287, 344, 384 
Port Bowen, 268 
Port Curtis, 267 
Port Hacking, 92, 104 
Port Jackson, see Sydney 
Port Lincoln, 211 

Discovery and survey of, 214 
Port Louis, 305, 307, 321 et seq. 
Port Phillip, 116, 225 
Flinders in, 233 et seq. 
Discovery of, 237 
Attempted settlement of, 243 
Portland Bay, 235 
Portlock, Lieut. N., Commander 

of Assistant, 29 
Portsea, 242 

Preservation Island, 127, 465 
Providence, H.M.S., 29 et seq., 

Providential Cove, see Watta- 



Quarterly Review, article on Flin- 
ders' case, 363, 386 
Queensland coasts, Flinders' voy- 
ages on, 157-162, 267-73 
Quiros, voyage of, 70, 420 
Red Point, 89, 465 
Reliance, H.M.S., 77, 80, 86w, 87, 
93 et seq., 100, 133, 140, 158, 
163, 238 
Revesby Isle, 211, 469 
Robbins, Acting-Lieutenant, 251 
Robinson Crusoe, influence of on 

Flinders, 11-12 
Rowley, Commodore, 379 
St. Alouarn, 205 
St. Vincent's Gulf, 210, 470 

Discovery of, 217, 388 
Schanck, Cape, 236 
Schanck, Captain John, designs 

Lady Nelson, 233 
Seal-fisheries, 444, 459-60 
Shaw and Smith, their use of the 

word Australia, 423 
Shinglar, Rev. John, schoolmaster 

of Flinders, 11 
Ships not elsewhere indexed — 

Adventure, 74. 108 

Advice, brig, 188-9 

Agincourt, 399 

Albion, 50 

Alert, 18 

Aquilon, 50 

Assistant, 29 ct scq. 

Audacious, 44, 48, 53, 54 

B a rive 11, 133 

Batavia, 69 

Bedford, 382 

B'clicr, brig, 317 

Belle Poule, La, 317 

Bcrccau, Lc, 352 

Blenheim, 372 

Blonde, La, 50 

Brunswick, 60 

Buffalo, 186, 213/i, 285 

Ships not elsewhere indexed — 
Caesar, 45, 52n, 54, 57-8 
Cape Chatham, 205 
Captivity, 19. See also Bellero- 

Casuarina, 250, 253, 254 
Cerberus, 163 
Circe, frigate, 42 
Cygnet, 16 
Defence, 48, 58 
Dictator, 20 
Duyfhen, yacht, 70 
Ecndragt, 68 
Eliza, sloop, 125 
Elligood, 220 
Endeavour, 74, 107 
Eole, 45, 46 
Es p crane e, 205 
Ganges, 48 
G lot ton, 297 
Glory, 50 

Greyhound, frigate, 369, 372 
Harbinger, brig, 236 
Harriet, cartel, 381 
Heemskirk, 140 
Heir Apparent, 391 
Hercules, 266 
Hunter, 323 
Java, 372 

Latona, 42, 46, 48, 49, 58 
Leviathan, 44, 51n, 53, 54, 58-9 
Lozcestoft, frigate, 15 
Marengo, French frigate, 317-18 
Marlborough, 44, 53, 58 
Matilda, whaler, 32 
Minerva, frigate, 336 
Nautilus, 135 
Niger, 50 
Olympia, 381 
Orient, V, 16 
Orion, 55 
Otter, 381 
Pandora, 269 



Ships not elsewhere indexed — 
Phaeton, 56 
Phoenix, 49 

Piemontaise, La, privateer, 363 
Polyphemus, 170 
Pompey, 391 
Queen, 5 In, 55, 59 
Queen Charlotte, 44, 45, 51 n, 53 

et seq., 77 
Recherche, 205 
Resolution, 21, 74 
Resource, 294n 

Revolutionnaire, 43, 52n, 54m, 61 
Rolla, 298 ef j*g. 
T^oya/ Sovereign, 53 
i?«w//, 44, 48, 52, 53, 57, 60 
Scipio, 17, 19 
Seahorse, 184-5 
Semillante, La, 407 
Serpente, Le, 202. See Le G^o- 

SmW, 77, 78, 129 

Southampton, 50 

Supply, tender, 77 et seq., 93, 

94, 126 
Temeraire, 20 
Terpsichore, 407 
Terrible, 44 
Theseus, 185 
77z^w, 364 

Thunderer, 44, 52, 53, 60 
Trajan, 46 
Tremendous, 57 
Vengeur, 60 
Vesuve, Le, 202. See Le 

Vianen, 69 

Warren Hastings, 363 
Warrior, 391 

Xenophon, 174. See Investiga- 
Zealand, 177 
Zeehan, 140 
Shoalhaven, 104 

Sibsey Isle, 211, 469 
Sleaford Bay, 211, 468 
Smith, Samuel, journal of, 194n, 
197, 208, 232, 243, 288, 289, 
294, 300 
Spanish-American colonies, 149 
Contraband trade with, 152 et 

Alleged British designs on, 258, 
446-7, 458 
Spencer, Earl, First Lord of the 
Admiralty, supports Flinders' 
exploration project, 172-3 
Grants passport to French dis- 
covery voyage, 173 
Visited by Flinders, 392 
Spencer's Gulf, 210, 212, 469 

Exploration of, 215, 388 
Spilsby Isle, 211, 469 
Stamford Hill, 211, 215, 469 
Station Peak, 241, 242n, 470 
Stickney Isle, 211, 469 
Streaky Bay, 211, 467 
Surfleet Point, 211, 469 
Swan Harbour, 242 
Swans, black, 141 
Sydney, growth of, 97 
Arrival of Investigator at, 244 
Baudin's expedition at, 246 et 

Peron's report on, 254, 436-64 
Military forces at, 258-9 
Flinders' observations on, 287 
Sydney Cove, wreck of, 112, 123 

et seq. 
Tahiti, 21 et seq. 

Bass's voyages to, 147 
Tamar, discovery of, 137 
Tasman, voyage of, 70, 140 
Tasmania, circumnavigation of, 

133 et seq. 
Taylor's Isle, 210, 214, 468 
Teneriffe, Flinders' description of, 



Tennysons, connection with Flin- 
ders' family, 6-7 
Termination Island, 205 
Terra Australis, 67, 175 
Thistle, John, drowning of, 212 

Character, 213 
Thistle Island, 210, 468 
Tides, theory of, Flinders' 

writings on, 418 
Tom Thumb, measurements of, 

Second boat of same name, 87, 

Torres, voyage of, 70 
Torres Strait, 269 
Trafalgar, battle of, 263, 373 
Transportation system, Peron on, 

Twofold Bay, discovery of, 105 
Adventure with aboriginal in, 

Vancouver, voyage of, 71 

His discoveries on Australian 

coast, 205 
Van Diemen, Cape, 273 
Venus, brig, Bass's purchase of, 

Voyages to Tahiti, 147 
Voyages to South America, 

Seizure of, 154 
Venus Bay, 148 
Vlaming, his metal plate, 68 
Waterhouse, Captain Henry, 77, 

94 et seq. 204, 283 » 
Waterhouse, Elizabeth, see Bass, 

Waterhouse Island, 204, 466 

Wattamolla (Watta-Mowlee), 92, 
104, 465 

Wellesley, the Marquess, Gov- 
ernor-General of India, 273/r, 
His interest in Flinders' case, 

Wellesley Isles, 273, 471 

Wentworth, W. C, his share in 
crossing Blue Mountains, 99 

Westall, Point, 210, 467 

Westall, William, artist, joins In- 
vestigator, 179, 280 

Westernport, discovery of, 114 
Le Naturalist e in, 204 

Whaleboat, Bass', measurements 
of, 102 

Wilhelm's Plains, Flinders' resi- 
dence at, 357 et seq. 

William IV. inspects Flinders' 
charts, 392 
On proposed pension to Mrs. 
Flinders, 400 

Williams, mate of Bridgewater, 

Williamson, acting commissary, 

Wilson's Promontory, 108, 117, 
225, 234 

Winceby Isle, 211, 469 

Wombat, Flinders' description of, 

Woolgrowing, 450-1 

Wreck Reef, 285, et seq., 474 

Yorke's Peninsula. 211, 218, 470 

You-yang Range, 241 
I Zeehan, Mount, 140, 466 

W. C. Penfold A Co. Ltd., Printers, Sydney. 


DU Scott, Ernest 

114 The life of Captain Matthew 

F6SA Flinders, R.N.